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MX Player’s Gautam Talwar on content plans and digital measurement currency

It will venture into branded content this month.

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MUMBAI: The latest OTT entrant Times Internet-owned MX Player recently entered the space with five original series on the back of an ad-supported business model. To keep consumers engaged, it aims to launch five to six shows each quarter. While the platform is already working closely with advertisers, it will also venture into branded content soon.

In an interaction with Indiantelevision.com, MX Player chief content officer Gautam Talwar spoke about the content strategy, initial audience response and content consumption trend on the platform. Talwar also expressed his views on industry issues such as the need for unified measurement, the possibility of consolidation in the OTT space.

Edited excerpts:

You started the journey with 5 series. How many shows do you plan to have in your library towards the end of the year?

I think the aim is to have at least 5-6 shows every quarter. That means we will be able to launch 1-2 shows every month. We reach out to a very wide cross section audience of India and the only way to cater to such diversity is being able to meet the diversity of content preference as well. So, we intend to have about 25-30 originals during the course of the year. 20-25, I would say to safely put it.

How often do you plan to refresh your library?

We will be launching a huge slate of originals and in terms of licencing and curating content we have already over 100,000 hours of content. That is constantly being refreshed in any case. On Sunday, we had the Radio Mirchi Music awards. So, whatever are the big things that we get, we refresh on a regular basis. But the refreshment will largely be driven with the kind of originals that we are trying to launch as well.

In this one month, which shows have got high traction?

That’s a very tough question to answer because with the diverse market and audiences, the shows have got different expectations. For all different shows we have different expectations, different benchmarks. Some would garner watch time, some would bring new audiences, some would deliver spike in participation. We have launched around 3 Hindi shows Hey Prabhu, Aafat and Im Mature. They have driven traffic in users and they have really exceeded our expectation and benchmark both. All three of the shows have done exceedingly well for us. The interesting part is that we got a huge spike in the female participation of the platform. That has gone up significantly since launch I think specifically because of Aafat.

For regional shows, we have also got good traction. The interesting part is that Famously Filmfare in seven languages, Lots of Love is in Tamil and Telugu. So, what we have done is we activated a regional basis also.

Can you share the significant content consumption trends on your platform?

I won’t be able to give any specific number but from the trend point of view, three key points are interesting. I think one is the fact that we have got a huge amount of participation from non-metro audiences. Apart from the top 8 metros which have also brought significant contribution, the non-metros have shown us a very significant spike in viewership. That’s one key content consumption trend for us.

The other interesting point is that a very large part of our audiences are actually newcomers in the age group of 18-35 as well. That’s the other interesting part.

Most people who are coming in are actually completing shows. Even on Twitter or other social media, the largest question asked are when is season 2 of Hey Prabhu, Im Mature launching. These are the content consumption trends we are looking at.

You have offline download capability also. Do audience stream more or prefer downloading?

Downloads have been activated for originals only when we launched. It’s a new feature. It all comes down to saying that because of the interesting content we put up, both the numbers are looking good. The actual number of who want to stream and want to download has increased. We don’t have downloads for all. Some of the licenced content cannot be downloaded. Only a fraction of the library, specifically the originals, are available for download.

How many advertisers do you currently have on board?

MX Player has been with the advertising community for very long time. We maintained those relationships and they are coming on to the streaming platform as well. So it’s been a healthy growth I would say, in terms of getting the advertisers on board.

We will be launching our first ever branded content. By the end of this month, we will be doing a show called Love Ok Please and that has been sponsored by a brand called Too Yumm.

Can you throw more light on your content strategy?

We formed a content strategy sometime ago. A lot of our shows are going to be catering to the heartland of audiences. We are going to be targeting the metro audiences. Because of the depth of distribution of MX Player, it is extremely critical that we kind of get shows for all kind of audiences, even all kinds of genres as well. We just started and we have to go a long way to ensure that. But the interesting part is that, from our perspective, I think one thing that we would like doing within this year is probably getting interactivity built into the content as well.

What’s your take on the need for unified currency for digital measurement?

We have been hearing about EKAM for a very long time. I think it's about time we get an independent medium to give authenticity that is required for advertisers to make sure that data being pulled out of all private OTT platforms has got a common currency. Once we get a common currency, we think advertisers will be at least clear about the value OTT players bring to the table, therefore, whatever the advertising rate that are being asked for has some amount of justification. I am sure over a period of time, as an industry we will come together for that level of third party measurement for all OTT players.

Do you foresee consolidation in the OTT space?

I think there will be some sense of consolidation. It is an extremely difficult business, it’s not only about content but also product, streaming, technology and engineering. You need a lot of things to get an OTT platform going. I think all players are not necessarily good at all things. I think it’s very important to get all parts of the puzzle right and also it requires deep pockets to make sure that do you have the strength and the will to make sure you last in the content business.

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