We are increasing budgets on international content: Mansi Shrivastav, MX Player

Mansi Shrivastav - Head, Content Acquisition, MX Player, says international content dubbed in local Indian languages is a category that MX Player is looking to further expand

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Published: Mar 27, 2020 8:41 AM  | 7 min read
Mansi Shrivastav

MX Player, the video streaming platform, has had a successful run with the Indian viewer. While the MX ‘Originals’ have made their mark, the over 200 content partnerships on the platform have ensured its audience remains entertained. The OTT player is looking to further strengthen its dubbed international content offering while ensuring that its core audience can watch these international productions in Indian languages. Major partnerships for this international content include Televisa for Spanish content, Calinos and Eccho Rights for Turkish content, Sonar and Freemantle for Hollywood, to name just a few.

Mansi Shrivastav - Head, Content Acquisition, MX Player spoke at length about their international shows and why localising them was important. She shares that other than dubbed shows they are also very excited about bringing Hindi dubbed Hollywood movies, such as Transformers, to the Indian audience very soon.

Edited excerpts of the Interview:

What content strategy of MX player seemed to have hit the right notes with the Indian audience?

The journey of MX Player began with a very wide and diverse offering of content. We've had content on the platform over the last two years, ranging from a two-minute short video to 13,000 plus collection of movies that we're offering on the platform across languages, we have news, live TV and even music with our partner Gaana. As we enter into the second year, in terms of strategy and focus, we're seeing an emergence of three major categories for us as far as consumption goes. And I’d say the top one over there would be web series. The second one being TV content on digital, which has also shown a pretty massive and significant consumption pattern over the last year, and prior to our launch as well, in some of the cases. And then the third is movies.

The first year has been, of course, about understanding trends, further consolidating what we already learnt and knew about our audiences and then sharply focusing and fine-tuning what we're providing to them. So, from the top categories that we're seeing in terms of web shows, this includes a whole range of things that we're buying, making, acquiring, licensing and within that one of the things that have emerged for us as well has been the space of dubbed content.

Could you elaborate on the dubbed content from international markets that MX player offers on its platform? How do you intend to localising it?

We started off with just one language which was Turkish. We’ve seen a huge amount of success with the shows that we've got, whether it's Our Story, Brave and the Beautiful etc. We’ve seen that the long-running episodes have worked well for us. Therefore we continue to expand on the Turkish category but along with Turkish, we're also looking at multiple other countries. We're looking at Korean and Spanish content, we've also picked up some Ukrainian content and we're looking at Chinese shows as well.

As far as localizing goes, the route that we strongly believe in, is the dubbing. We are not looking at only subtitling this content, because the endeavour is to make sure that we take stories, take shows and content to the viewers in their comfort language. In the case of the MX audience, within those comfort languages, the first prominent one is Hindi. We're also dubbing in Tamil and Telugu, it seems like a very obvious route to take yet it's not been done for so many shows in this country before.

What is your budget allocation within content?

In terms of acquired content, it is almost 50% of our total budget. We're increasing the budgets on international because we're looking at expanding this category completely. And we're looking at getting content from not only the Korean, Chinese and Spanish territories but also Hollywood content dubbed in Hindi. Therefore the larger spends on this will be there, we will look at almost 10% of our acquired content spends on the international category because that is something that we see a lot of potential in as the year progresses.

You intend bringing in Hollywood content but how will you compete with existing and also the new international OTT players that offer exclusive Hollywood blockbusters etc?

The way I look at this is that we have an audience which is captive and which I see certain consumption patterns on and we can see the kind of content that's working for them. Now, is it the same content that is going to work for another platform? Or is it different? I think it is very, very different at the moment in terms of the kinds of content pieces that will be relevant to us versus other players. There are big deals in terms of the SVOD space and major studio deals that are exclusive, that are happening and I think that audience requires that content, for that audience, I would say that's the main bread and butter. For our audience, it’s more diverse. For MX Player, because the diversity and taste are pretty varied and we have audiences across Tier 1, 2 & 3, we have audiences across the top 10 languages and then within those languages as well we have audiences that are consuming different categories. Therefore, in that sense, our offering is right. And therefore, for sourcing, I look for different kinds of stories in terms of relevance.

Having said that, as we go along this year, we do intend to get more Hollywood content, more importantly, get more content which we can dub, whether it's Hollywood, Spanish or any of the Asian territories. We are not yet playing in the English space but as and when we do, we will cross that bridge when it comes to that.

How important are the regional markets for MX player and why?

Regional is a very important component for us. MX has a user base of 175 million monthly active users and 75 million daily active users, there is a very significant component of that user base which is spread across Tamil, Telugu, a significant component in Bengali, followed by Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam and Kanada. We are looking at, organically, over time expanding each of these categories. In terms of growth and patterns etc, we have had both acquisitions, as well as original focus in these areas.

Why is it important? Because of two reasons, firstly India in terms of viewership and digital viewership is expanding beyond Tier 1 for everybody. For MX specifically, it's a free platform and easily available, accessible down to the Tier 2, Tier 3 audiences as well. Therefore, regional does become extremely important, perhaps more important than any other player that's perhaps not in the AVOD category. In AVOD, regional is a huge piece and just cannot be ignored. And for us, it's not a discovery or a new development. It's been significant from day one, and we're ensuring that we're developing those categories further. The development has been threefold. We are doing broadcasts and platform partnerships, we're doing individual licensing as well in these categories and our originals team is also focusing a lot on producing interesting content, which are MX originals for regional languages.

What has been the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on MX player? Has the content flow been impacted?

These are unprecedented times. I don't think anybody was expecting this to play out the way it has. As far as acquisitions at MX Player go, given the nature of deals and negotiations and acquisitions, it's always a three to four-month cycle. So, what you always plan in month one, by the time it transpires it's month four. Given that, MX does have a pipeline which is planned. If this situation continues is when we will face larger problems. If it, hopefully, stabilizes soon we will be okay. We are, of course, following all of the government guidelines, the restrictions that we need to follow and the shoots of existing shows have been stopped. But all of those were not planned for the immediate purposes, as far as the offering to the end consumer is concerned, I don't see that being disrupted until and unless it continues beyond June. I think until then we are anyway prepared because there is a lot of advance planning that you have to do given the contracts, deliveries and pre-prep of any content before it reaches the platform.

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