Starz-backed streamer Lionsgate Play has revealed ambitious expansion plans in Southeast Asia, local commissions in India and a 60-strong English-language programming slate.
In Asia, the service is currently available in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
“We’re certainly looking to go out to all South Asian territories, which is Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives: these are some of the territories that we’re going to go immediately,” Amit Dhanuka, executive VP at Lionsgate India, told Variety. “And then within the Southeast Asian market, for us the evaluation criteria would be largely between a bunch of countries, which would be Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore — those would be the territories that we would look to go out to initially.”
The Southeast Asian expansion will roll out between the next 12-24 months, Dhanuka says.
Meanwhile, the streamer has begun production on originals in India. Production is underway on an as-yet-untitled Indian adaptation of Lionsgate Television’s hit series “Casual,” directed by Kunal Kohli, the Bollywood film director known for films like “Hum Tum” and Fanaa,” starring Lara Dutta and Prateik Babbar. Also in the works is “U-Special” (working title) with Akarsh Khurana (“Karwaan”) as showrunner, headlined by Emmy-nominated actor Arjun Mathur (“Made in Heaven”).
Lionsgate Play was formally launched in India in December 2020, after a Beta run in November, with other territories following. The streamer is positioned as a go-to service for premium Hollywood film and television content.
“When we launch in a country, it takes time to build a slate of originals,” says Dhanuka. “Can we do a one-off original? Yes, we can. But does that really create compelling content and customer value? No, it does not. It would take us 24 to 36 months before we are able to evaluate, pick up a slate and then find out what that really means for us in the market. And that’s where Indonesia stands or any other market within Southeast Asia that we launch will be.”
The Indian originals will begin rolling out from November and will eventually build up to 10-12 a year.
“Bangladesh is a little bit different. Bangladesh is really about Bangla-language content, and that content transfers between India and Bangladesh, both,” Dhanuka adds.
Meanwhile, Lionsgate Play is sticking to its core strength of Hollywood programming with an upcoming slate of 60 film and television titles. Many of the film titles are direct-to-digital premieres as cinemas remain closed in the region due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Highlights include Guy Richie’s “Wrath of Man,” with Jason Statham; “Saw” franchise addition “Spiral,” with Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson; action film “Way Down”; Oscar winner “The Father”; survival movie “13 Minutes”; and Renny Harlin’s heist thriller “The Misfits,” with Pierce Brosnan.
On the TV front, the slate includes the new season of “Love Island,” “Vigil,” “The Mallorca Files,” “Press,” “Honourable Woman,” “Doctor Death,” “Heels” and “Home Economics.” Much of the content will also be available dubbed into local languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Kannada.
“The way we are positioned in the market among this entire space is that we stand for content, which is thrilling, urban, edgy, provocative, edge of the seat and adrenaline filled,” says Dhanuka. “We’ve tried time and again to bring that and the lineup that we have coming out really gives that.”