How MX Player’s ‘Queen’ is taking regional content mainstream

MX Player's Content Head, Gautam Talwar says that the success of their Tamil web series 'Queen' proves that language is not a barrier for a good story

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Dec 24, 2019 9:34 AM

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MX Player Queen

Typically OTT players produce a show in Hindi and then dub it for regional markets but Times Internet-owned MX Player decided it was time to turn it around with their web series 'Queen'. Originally made in Tamil the series has now been dubbed in Hindi and Bengali. The success of that decision and the rave reviews by both critics and audiences alike have given MX Player much to cheer about.

A late entrant in the OTT game, MX Player, according to their Content Head, Gautam Talwar, is racing up the popularity charts in the eleven months since their launch. And ‘Queen’ has strengthened their hold in an overcrowded industry.

Says Gautam, “With Queen, I think the biggest learning for us has been the fact that regional is not regional anymore. There's nothing called regional in our heads anymore. It's just proven the point that if you have a good story to tell, language is the least of the barriers, just make it available in languages that consumers want to watch it in, which is why we've done it in Bengali, we've done it in Hindi and the uptake of that is absolutely phenomenal. I don't think we should look at regionals as regional anymore, it’s mainstream. And that's the learning that we're going to take forward to make sure that most of our original shows are now available in as many languages as possible.”

'Originals' was the buzzword for the OTT industry in 2019 as well, MX Player was determined it wasn’t in the game of playing catch up but wanted instead to focus on Originals that would grab eyeballs and also set it apart. Its steady climb to the top spots in under a year has given the team confidence that it’s getting it right so far, which is why it intends to boost its spend on Originals, “We've launched at least 15 shows until now and they’ve performed pretty well for us whether it be Hey Prabhu, Thinkisthan, Only For Singles, Hello Mini or Immature they've done really, really well on the platform, all the original shows. And I think going forward because we're getting such a lovely response we're going to be doubling up and making sure that investment also, keeps growing. Our plans are very clearly saying that there will be some massive Hindi shows for sure but along with that, we will also have some very, very key language shows, if I could call them that.”

But MX player is not alone in the game, competitors also have been pumping in time, money and effort into their Originals. In fact, Netflix recently announced it plans to infuse 3000 crore on content alone. Does that make them nervous? “No, says Talwar, “Because this is a creative business. Let's be honest that's a lot of money to pump in, it is fantastic for them. But I genuinely believe it's a creative product and if you could pump in 100 crores more to get a better creative product is not necessarily so.

He further adds, “We've done some beautiful stories, 'Hey Prabhu' is a beautiful story but not at scale, but it's got some massive viewership, right? But let's be honest when there is scale, there is a huge impact as well so Queen is a scale project. I just hope the better story wins rather than the better budget wins. I hope that's the truth for all of us.”

On the back of Queen’s success MX Player will be looking at making content for regional in a much more focussed way, says Talwar, “ When people think regional they suddenly start thinking lesser than Hindi, what happens with that is they scale down budgets, they scale down people, cast, directors etc. Most people believe let’s get Hindi right and then dub it in other languages, versus the other way around. For us, our audience actually resides in Tier 2- Tier 3 towns. So, there is no reason why I should be treating them as second hand. I don't think there is a bigger web series show in Tamil Nadu until date, I may be proven wrong but as of right now, I can't think of a scale of any show at a web series level that has been put out there.”

Gautam further explains that the original language Queen was made in was Tamil and English and the scale and budgets for the show were at par with not only any popular Hindi web series but shows made anywhere in the world.

“Both our Marathi shows are also top-notch talent in the Marathi business. We're making sure that also has zero compromises. Because the story is so universal that we'll make sure that it's available to people to watch in other languages. And we're doing the same thing in Bhojpuri as well. Queen has shown us the way that the hypothesis is true. That a story well told can travel in any language, whether it be our next Marathi show, whether it be our next Bengali show, whether it be our next Punjabi show, or our next Telegu show also. I think we are just operating at a scale where we think that's the quality benchmark we need to hit with any show of ours and that's what we're doing now.”

As far as the content strategy for MX Player goes, the platform will focus on both,  their content partnerships with networks like Sony, Viacom SunNxt, TVF, Dice Media and Arre and also grow the ‘Originals’ pie. The platform now boasts of 175 mn MAUs and 75 mn DAUs and is looking at launching 20 originals in various languages by March 2020. In what came as a big boost to full filling their ambitions of becoming the world’s largest entertainment platform, MX Player, received $110 million in fresh funding from Tencent and Times Internet in 2019.

While they have enough and more on their plate for 2020, for now the platform is basking in the success of their Tamil web series Queen. The proof of the pudding has indeed been in the eating, “Our biggest response has been on social media, the love that is pouring on Instagram or Twitter is so reassuring,” shares Gautam.

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