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OTTplay Premium targets 1.5 mn subscribers in a year: co-founder and CEO Avinash Mudaliar

The OTT platform aggregator plans to have 20 OTT services on the platform.

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Mumbai: An OTT platform aggregator, OTTplay Premium, has been a content discovery platform for streaming services. Earlier this year, it turned into a streaming service provider.

Currently, OTTplay distributes 12 OTT platforms, including SonyLIV, ZEE5, Lionsgate Play, Sun NXT, ShemarooMe, Curiosity Stream, ShortsTV, DocuBay and four international brands-Hallmark Movies Now, DUST, FUSE+ and Tastemade+—with the goal of scaling up.

OTTplay co-founder & CEO Avinash Mudaliar said, "We have 12 OTT players. We have signed up with another three OTT players. In this quarter, we plan to have 20 OTT services on our platform."

A product of HT Labs, OTTplay offers five subscription packs, and regional content markets are the major players in its offerings. It has no plans to create content. It aims to ensure that its partners get the best distribution reach.

Mudaliar said, "We will bring in Turkish and Korean content. The subscriber numbers are encouraging. We plan to reach 1.5 million subscribers in a year. We aim to break even in 2.5-3 years."

He noted that while HT is an investor, the company will look at external investors. Investors have made substantial investment.

He further explained that when OTTplay started a couple of years back, the company realised that over 60 per cent of people struggled to figure out what to watch and where, digitally. While there were great pieces of content, nobody knew how to find them. "There were large and small OTT platforms. The conundrum for people is do you spend money on creating or marketing content? Great content is put on OTT platforms and gets lost. We come from a product-tech background. Our strength is in recommendations, but we also respect the concept of manual editorialisation. We started with solving the problem of what to watch and where. That was the market gap."

Every person has their own set of choices. So, we built a personalisation engine. "We would lead consumers to the payment gateways of OTTs." Further, it was decided to layer the engine with content. For this purpose, 25 people started to work on the content and reviewed it.

He said that many OTT platforms use the company’s ratings and reviews. "That was phase one. Another problem was how to watch and how much to pay. People wanted us to bring content together. This was the feedback that we got from consumers. So we built a subscription gateway. You pay once for multiple OTT platforms. You can watch their content on your phone, laptop, Amazon’s fire TV stick, and Android TV."

The powerplay package on the platform costs Rs 1,999 for 12 OTT platforms. The cheapest package costs Rs 699 for five OTT services. There is a lot of interest in the powerplay package due to its value offers, he said.

Mudaliar remarked that deals with OTT platforms tend to be a mix of licensing and revenue sharing. "The deals are interesting and complicated."

He further noted that the cost per subscriber is a struggle for OTT platforms. OTTplay gets a subscriber that the OTT platform might not have gotten. OTTplay, through its recommendation engine, also gets people to consume content on those platforms that they might not have otherwise consumed.

"We enable discovery of content pieces. It is a win-win. It is a marriage of equal minds. One is a creator and one is a discovery engine. OTTplay premium provides new users, content discovery, and marketing muscle to the OTT platforms. OTTplay Premium provides a cohort of users that those OTT platforms might never have had," said Mudaliar.

One challenge for the company is to retain consumers. He mentioned that they must come back. OTTplay Premium has to offer a value add that others do not offer. One also has to keep users engaged and see that the time spent on the OTT platforms on OTTplay Premium increases. "The more the number of hours he/she watches on those platforms the better it is for OTTplay Premium. That is revenue coming in."

Sharing about the distributor platform’s collaboration with five international OTT platforms in India and their launch. He said, "Hallmark Movies Now plays in the romance and comedy space. Meanwhile, DUST plays in the sci-fi space. How much sci-fi content is available on television? Hardly any. People love cooking in India, and again, that kind of content is not shown much on TV. Tastemade+ is a food OTT platform. FUSE+ is a full-fledged lifestyle OTT offering. Docubay is a documentary OTT. CuriosityStream is a science and information-related OTT. You will spend close to Rs 14,000 on subscribing to each of them individually," Mudaliar added.

He said that the company is very serious about the regional space. Namma Flix will be on OTTplay Premium, he revealed . "We are getting pretty active in the regional space. Conversations are on for the platforms’ reach in the North and East. Bengali has amazing content. The barrier to entry in OTT is high. You need to plan your content and marketing strategy. These are the three key levels. The product has to be clearly differentiated. We have a lot of problems." It is also important, he added, to plan for when you will get customers and what kind of an experience you will provide to them.

Explaining how the recommendation engine works, he said that someone who likes crime may watch Agatha Christie on SonyLIV. Now, if someone has put English and Kannada as the languages of choice, the aggregator can suggest an Agatha Christie movie made in Kannada on another platform. Then the aggregator will recommend an Agatha Christie documentary on Docubay. "People end up discovering different pieces of content across OTT platforms. The user experience is great across the OTT platforms. This is what OTTplay Premium brings. We have solved the problem of what, where, when, how, and why to watch. It has solved the ecosystem. We have become that voice," he explained.

In terms of content preferences by subscribers, he said that Hindi is first, followed by regional languages, and then English. In terms of genres that people consume, he points to crime, comedy, family dramas, and documentaries.

However, he mentioned that the company is thoughtful to the fact that India is a price-sensitive market. "So our products suit the Indian customer. We build whatever works for the customer. We respect both SVOD and AVOD. Indians like the thali approach. They like the sampling and tasting approach. It is how the Indian content consumption ecosystem works. You need to give to take. You need to show value. The concept of hidden value to an Indian customer does not exist. The more content you put out there, the more they like it, and the more they are willing to pay." 

He highlighted that the subscriber base comes from the metros. OTTplay Premium is like Spotify. It is not a bundled product that runs on only one data plan. It runs regardless of the telco service provider, he said.

On the tech front, he noted that the company has its own algorithms, which are homegrown. There are multiple teams, including data science and engineering teams. They work on algorithms, and it is a learning algorithm. The more a user interacts with the app, converses with the app, and gives feedback, the more the app starts to respond. That is how the algorithm works. Collaborative filtering goes on in the algorithm. The company’s editorial team provides articles for the machine to learn from.

He concluded by mentioning his remarks on the marketing front that the company will do couponing. It has tied up companies who will gift OTTplay as a subscription. It has tied up with the HT circulation team, who are selling Diwali packages with the newspapers. The concept is that OTTplay premium gives you happiness. Diwali is about happiness. So one can give an OTTplay premium as a gift of happiness. This is the marketing plan for the next few months.

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