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MX Player’s Bedi on the OTT player’s plans to become a one-stop platform

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By Amit Bapna, Editor-at-large

November 27, 2020 | 7 min read

“Within less than 2 years of its launch, MX has gone on to become the largest entertainment platform in the country,” says Karan Bedi, chief executive officer of MX Player, in an exclusive chat with The Drum.

mxplayer

Aashram, a flagship series on MX Player

The relatively young Indian OTT player, part of The Times Group, has added substantial numbers during the pandemic as more people got glued to their mobile screens devouring the available OTT content.

Bedi shares the USP of the brand, its content strategy and the go-to-market plans, as well as the brand’s aspirations to be a one-stop platform by targetting users across their need-states in a day - from long form to short form video, music and gaming.

OTT seems to be on its way to becoming the new mass medium going by its sharp growth in India especially in the last few months. Where do you think it is headed?

OTT has truly emerged as the new preferred choice of medium for the entertainment needs of the consumer. There are only 200m TVs in India and nearly 500m 4G connected devices, growing strongly. Affinity towards home entertainment is here to stay.

TV consumption in the US has been steadily declining with a marked shift to OTT consumption. In India, the phenomenon started a little later, and the pandemic drove significant acceleration in the adoption of OTT services. Despite opening up of the lockdown, we have seen huge, continued growth in our consumption.

In the busy OTT space, what has been the USP and the go-to-market strategy for a newer player like MX Player?

When we started out, what we had was a video utility tool and we’ve successfully managed to convert it to a streaming service that is serving millions of Indians. Our strategy is to become an entertainment super app, offering all kinds of entertainment under one roof, and today all our products are leading in their categories. We have a large and exciting slate of MX Originals/MX Exclusives, high potential international content, live TV, movies, news, music streaming, gaming so on and so forth. There are hundreds of millions of 4G smartphone users in India, and with our positioning and offerings, we can cater to almost any entertainment palette.

How would you describe the typical MX Player consumer?

We have a strong distribution in India, with engagement coming from both the top metros as well as Tier 2, 3 and even beyond towns. Our content mix, which is young and mass, allows for more widespread viewership and we cater to India’s vast youth (with audiences of the age 18–24 years) followed by the 25-34 years age segment.

Thus, our typical consumer is from those under-served audiences who are looking for entertainment beyond television, but not necessarily niche content. These users are big on binge behaviour with high stickiness, open to experimentation, quality and have a voracious appetite for diverse content.

How does the brand offering stand out when pitched against competition: the likes of global players Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as local players like Zee5 and SonyLiv etc?

Netflix and Amazon focus on the niche 5% of the market while the TV broadcasters focus on TV content largely. Our proposition since the launch has been to offer the mass Indian market, content that is not available anywhere else but has huge demand. Our ‘originals’ strategy has seen this play out well. In addition to this, we offer our Everytainment proposition - and give our users not just long-form video, but music, short video and gaming as well. And we’re providing all this for free.

How does the free-to-air offering, and positioning fit into the future roadmap for MX Player?

Our content is going beyond just the metros with a sharp focus on Tier II and III markets. MX Player is a 100% free-to-consume platform and unlike other OTTs who have their premium digital-first content behind a paywall - all our premium shows are under the AVOD (ad-based video on demand) umbrella and both consumers and advertisers have been able to engage with our wide range of offerings. There is no better way to reach the vast Indian mass market. Our focus is the nearly 500m mass market users across the country.

What are the brand’s global ambitions and the current footprint?

We have expanded our OTT offerings in a number of international markets - including Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and the UAE, along with a beta launch in a few other markets.

From content pint of view, we have launched a robust catalogue of international content dubbed in Hindi. We have a lot of Turkish, Korean, Spanish and Hollywood content amongst other regions that we’ve dubbed into local languages.

Specifically, how was the offering pivoted doing the pandemic and the lockdown considering the number of people at home consuming the content was huge?

During the lockdown, the aim was to provide continuous/uninterrupted entertainment to all our users. We launched some of our biggest shows during the lockdown.

  • Times of Music, a one-of-its-kind musical show, brought together 20 musical legends who were seen recreating engaging versions of each other’s most celebrated tunes.
  • Another fiction series Aashram Part 1 clocked over 500mn streams till date, making it one of the biggest web series.

How has been the response from advertisers and brands?

As an AVOD platform, we’ve seen a phenomenal rate of growth, not only in terms of attracting viewers but also advertisers and brands. While we’ve had month on month ad revenue growth, post April 2020, there has been a lot of reallocation of budgets from traditional media coming into digital and we’ve landed over 50 new brands during the lockdown alone. There are numerous new brands and categories that have engaged with us. Revenue run rate is trending at nearly 3x last year.

Recently MX also forayed into the short video space on the lines of TikTok. What are the plans for it going forward?

MX TakaTak has been live for four months now having launched in July 2020. We have managed to become one of the leading players in the space, according to third party statistics. We expect major growth going forward. MX TakaTak is home to over 6m unique content creators, including some of the biggest names in the influencer community.

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