MUMBAI: Saavn, the music streaming service, has expanded into original audio programming and is contemplating a future where it offers video products as well, as it repositions itself as an entertainment platform.

The current positioning is "'music is who we are", with a business model based on a standard advertising-funded listening channel and an ad-free subscription-based one, Saavn Pro.

Co-founder Vinodh Bhat indicated that some of the new original programming – which will include storytelling, crime series and a show centred on mythology – could be exclusive to the subscription service.

"More listeners are willing to pay for a premium experience around music and audio," he told the Economic Times. And indeed, the number of Saavn Pro subscribers has reportedly grown sixfold since 2014.

As well as original programming, produced in partnership with Indus Vox Media and Arré, Saavn will also run some existing popular programs from these suppliers on the platform.

And with more non-music audio programs, DNA noted, brands could gain exclusive, native placement opportunities, as content creators, above and beyond sponsorship.

PepsiCo and Vodafone are among the early businesses coming on board. "We believe in activating the brand's proposition across multiple touchpoints – via long-form video storytelling, audio episodes and even our packaging," said Nitin Bhandari, associate director, brand marketing for PepsiCo's Mountain Dew soft drink brand.

The Economic Times added that the brand had found during a campaign in 2015 that audio episodes delivered almost twice as many consumer engagements as video formats.

Audio has often been regarded as the poor relation in a media market dominated by the visual in the forms of Bollywood and television. But Arré founder B. Sai Kumar argued that there is huge potential in audio, thanks to the spread of the mobile phone and broadband connections.

These developments, he said, had created a "headphone lifestyle" among millennials. "Podcasts and spoken-word programs are the future of entertainment," he declared.

Saavn's Bhat is looking beyond audio, however. "We have re-built our products to house non-music programming and this is also the foundation for future video products," he said.

Data sourced from Economic Times, DNA; additional content by Warc staff