Streamer Lionsgate Play is aiming to nearly double its presence in Asia to 15 countries by the end of 2022.
Speaking to Variety ahead of Singapore’s Asia TV Forum and Market (ATF), Rohit Jain, MD South Asia, and networks – emerging markets Asia, said, “Give or take, we should be in 13 to 15 countries by the end of 2022. We are already in eight, Philippines is launching for us next quarter.”
The service’s Asia rollout began with India. Countries it is now available in include Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
“We are focused on pretty much most of the market of Southeast Asia,” said Jain. “The remaining countries in Southeast Asia, we find whether it’s Thailand, whether it’s Vietnam, all of these are exciting markets. Traditionally they’ve had tremendous affinity to Hollywood content, which of course, is a large part of our service worldwide. The English-speaking population in all of this region is fantastic, with a young demographic. Each market is getting evaluated as we speak and we continue to prioritize.”
Lionsgate Play is the streaming platform of Lionsgate’s premium subscription service Starz. Lionsgate had acquired Starz in 2016 for $4.4 billion. In November, Lionsgate announced that its board of directors has given the greenlight to its management team to explore spinning off or selling Starz. The potential sale could have a direct effect on the Lionsgate Play business.
“Jon [Feltheimer] has been very articulate about the issues in the market. The company’s always been value accretive by nature. From our point of view, to that extent, I think it’s very crystal clear. We just continue to focus on just growing, expanding and more markets, growing deeper, adding more subscribers, building more content,” said Jain.
“So, in some ways, the good news is it is status quo for us, the basics of the business don’t change, right? Any transaction conversation has no effect on the basics of the business to that extent. In fact, the good news is, the bigger and the stronger that we become, whatever happens, the future can only hold good.”
Based on recent reports by Media Partners Asia and EY and the company’s own market intelligence, Jain says that the Asian streaming market will grow to 250 million paying subscribers by 2025. “India, of course, will be a large part of that, but we are seeing phenomenal growth in every part of this region,” says Jain. “We’re seeing some fantastic growth in Philippines, Indonesia is such critical market, Malaysia has always been a strong market with regards to media, smaller in population compared to Indonesia, but a fantastic market.”
Lionsgate Play is also now in the business of producing original shows, beginning with Hindi-language relationship series “Hiccups and Hookups,” which has just begun streaming. “Localization is critical for us,” says Jain, saying that the streamer will produce six to ten originals in Hindi in the year ahead. There will be dubbed versions in several languages.
The service is still young in many parts of Southeast Asia and the focus there is on the Hollywood pipeline for now.
Jain is clear that Lionsgate Play is not a family network and is targeted at an adult audience between the ages of 20-45 who comprise some 75% of their subscribers. “We are more like an add on service to a family network, which provides more opportunity to a certain age group which is really wanting to watch more premium content. And in that sense, we’ll play our game, we’ve obviously rolled our dice and we’ll do our bit,” says Jain.