Year Ender: MX Player COO Nikhil Gandhi reveals the platform’s growth and future plans

The advent of the OTT platforms has been disruptive for the Indian entertainment industry. The experimental original content and other international programs boosted the initial viewership surge which kept on rising owing to the pandemic. In the year 2021, when the entire country slowly adapted to the new normal and offices resumed post the lockdown, the OTT platforms managed to keep the graph rising through innovations, consumer research and so on.

Leading OTT platforms kept rolling out tempting offers on monthly/yearly plans and other initiatives to cater to the exact tastes of every customer. As the OTT gambit gained momentum, personalized viewing became a trend, which further encouraged experimental works and opened doors for many production houses. Industry leaders witnessed various trends evolving this year which is gradually paving the way for the platforms in securing a relevant position in the Indian entertainment space, giving huge competition to linear television.

Crossing a staggering one billion downloads on Google Play Store in just over two years of having launched the platform, a leading entertainment super app, MX Player has secured its position firmly in the OTT space. Their latest original Matsya Kaand, a thriller series, performed very well crossing 100 million views since its release in November. Animation Xpress got in touch with MX Player COO Nikhil Gandhi to know more about the platform’s growth and future plans.

Consumer behaviour and growth

Told Gandhi in a telephonic interview, “Firstly, 2021 has been a defining year for many reasons. We saw a shift in consumer behavior in the first half of the year. There was partially a lockdown and then we got out of the second lockdown in the summer of 2021. But what we see is a very deep tectonic shift in terms of behavior especially when it comes to digital entertainment. We saw that people are now spending more than 6.5 hours on their smartphones, 3.5 hours of which are on video, and this statistic is something that we are very happy about and find encouragement to try and experiment with different types of content. 

MX Player COO Nikhil Gandhi

Second, given the way our watch time has been consistently increasing, we have been able to create content that goes beyond the current boundaries of what viewers get to see otherwise. If you look at the broader OTT space, most of it is catch up TV content and they sprinkle it with a little bit of originals. Our mainstay has always been to drive high decibel original content and we put out at least one or two shows every month. And we make sure these are large in terms of scale, production and engage in a mix of much loved old and new talent to entertain our consumers.”

Milestones achieved

 “We have definitely seen almost 30 per cent growth in our overall user base as compared to last year,” Gandhi shared.

Talking about the Indian OTT market’s performance post lockdown, he said, “I think there are two aspects to this. What we can see here is a clear shift in the Ad dollars. We have a 30,000 crore OTT market now (25,000 crore AVOD based and 5,000 crore SVOD based). I think that number itself is quite telling. In my estimate you have about oddly 30 million subscribers who are paying for OTT services, of which we have on an average each subscriber, subscribing to at least two separate services. 

It is only a time when you will see people moving out of traditional television and overall lapping up OTT. So this is a very clear trend. And the 2023 numbers look very encouraging. It looks like we would be at 40,000 crore AVOD as well as 10,000 crore SVOD, that makes it a 50,000 crore business.”

He further mentioned, “So in terms of scale and CAGR, we are far more aggressive than any other traditional format of media. So in the years to come, digital and OTT will overcome TV in terms of share price. So that is one big key data point.

I would say it will happen by 2024, 2023 being the milestone year for us to reach some scale as compared to television.”

Talking about the phenomenal one billion download milestone on Google Play store in a very short period, a proud Gandhi stated, “It is a great moment for us at MX, as well as for India. We are the only app globally that has achieved this milestone amongst 16 other global tech companies that has achieved this milestone on Google Playstore. It is a very proud and defining moment for an Indian company. 

But apart from that, consistently if you look at our numbers – we rank in the list of highest amount of time spent on apps in the social video and entertainment space according to App Annie’s ‘The Evolution of Social Media Apps’ report which is quite telling because I think globally we have very large giants who are in the same space. If you take it down to India, we are in the top five. If you keep the messaging apps aside, outside of YouTube, MX is very clearly consistently standing tall as the second most consumed app in terms of time spent in India and from a global perspective.”

With the rising users of smartphones and tablets, the platforms are actually looking at a very sizable ecosystem for digital content. The immense projected growth provides opportunity for various content producers.

According to him, OTT is a personalised consumption space unlike TV which is consumed together as a family in the living room. As the maximum number of users are consuming content on their smartphone, their own tab or desktop, it is a very personalised way of consumption and you tend to consume genres and formats and different types of content that you would otherwise not usually do. 

“I think what is working for us is: there is a great amount of technology and the other thing that we are very proud of is that we have been able to deploy the H.266 compression technology

that enables lower data consumption at a higher quality of video output. That drives a great amount of consumption for our App. And we are the only App globally that has been able to do so,” Gandhi said.

Content strategies

Asked about exploring the kids’ content genre, MX Player COO said, “As of now we do not have any kids’ content. We do have content that caters to family viewing which can be considered for kids as well. But we have built a team to understand if the kids’ space is something that we really want to aggressively move into. Our current observation says that in the OTT space there are a few players, but given that we have a large base of smartphone users who are in the 15+ category, priority will be addressed in that category.”

However, MX Player has a very diverse range of content with more than 300,000 hours of content in their library across six different languages. They get content from global content suppliers and dub them and show them in multiple regional languages including Turkish, Korean, American, Spanish and content from many other international regions available on the platform. So that is something we are extremely happy about.

“This year we had a great run with Aashram 2, we had the second season of Ek Thi Begum and we launched the high decibel show called Cartel. Recently, we launched Matsya Kaand, so all of these were high fidelity shows which drove newer audiences,” Gandhi added.

Source: MX Player Facebook Page

Future trends

Elaborating upon the trends that will dominate overall Indian digital space in terms of content, he said, “Today we are talking of a 10 million base, and I think that base is clearly going to be around 30 or 40 million in the next two or three years. So we are talking of a very sizable ecosystem for digital content. One is, there are 500 million smartphone subscribers who will come in the next three to four years. So overall the smartphone base itself will be about 900 million to a billion wherein a large part of the country will be fully connected. So, 450 million is going to 900 million, doubling the smartphone base itself. Connected Television is going to be another 30-40 million. And then we have 150 million worth of tab users. So you are talking of a very large sizable base of consumers who have access to content which they were not consuming otherwise. And therefore, the growth is going to be substantial which is why you see that players in the OTT space are buying content that they would not do otherwise.”

The platform has a loyal base of users who are coming in to stream the MX Exclusives and Originals. Also, they have a very definitive base of users who only come in to consume the international content. They have a separate cohort of users who come in to consume movies on their platform.

“We have content available for everybody. Given that we have such a high base – Indian as well as global, it only gives us a reason to delve into different types of content that caters to the tastes and preferences of these different types of cohorts and users. So that’s the reason we stand apart very distinctly as compared to any OTT service,” Gandhi said.