The pandemic and the ensuing lockdown coupled with no fresh content on GEC have seen a huge surge in the viewership of OTT platforms. The OTT viewership has also transcended across demographic segments and content consumption today has become an individual activity.
MX Player started the year with a bang; they launched 17 new shows and also their partnership with ALTBalaji for Broken But Beautiful Season 3. Samantar 2 dubbed in Hindi opened extremely well, it has been appreciated in non-vernacular areas, roughly 45% show users are for Hindi dubbed version, the show in the original Marathi was top in Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, and Thane, and in Hindi, it was at the top in Delhi, Lucknow, Ahmedabad, and Patna.
Gautam Talwar – Chief Content Officer, MX Player in an exclusive chat with MediaNews4U talks about Samantar 2, regional content on the platform, out-of-the-box content on OTT, and much more…
Samantar 2 is a Marathi Show, what made you dub it in three other languages?
Certain stories transcend language barriers and we believed that Samantar is an edge-of-the-seat thriller that deserves to reach a wider audience. It’s been adapted from SuhasShirvalkar’s literary work who was a Marathi writer and hence the series’ original language was Marathi, but we dubbed season 1 last year-round as well and the results were truly encouraging. The important learning for us with the dubbing of season 1 was that the Hindi version performed exceedingly well. In fact, I would say equally or even better than the Marathi version which was the original language. And this is what made us sure that there are enough viewers who are wanting to watch the story in multiple languages. This gave us the confidence to release Season 2 in the exact same languages as Season 1.
How has the response to season 2 been, overall, and compared to season 1?
It is really heartening to see that season 2 has got an even better response than season 1. Very few times do you see that season two outperform season 1. And we’ve been seeing this across all platforms because the story is out, the characters are not new, the setting is not new, it’s something you’ve seen before so the novelty factor for the following season wears out very fast, but Samantar has reversed that particular trend. Samantar 2 has got a phenomenal response and the proof is in the pudding – if you go and just search #Samantar2 on Twitter and Insta, you will see all the love that’s flowing in for the show. Season 2 has achieved greater results and we’ve made sure that the franchise lived up to its promise. I think that was the important part.
How has the response to regional content on the platform been?
MX has been a forerunner in bringing viewers high-quality, premium content even in the regional space and we’re one of the few to be investing this heavily in this category. We started off with a very massive show in Tamil called ‘Queen’ which was a great success and you’re going to see Season 2 of that coming shortly as well. In terms of scale and the way it has been mounted, I think no other Tamil show would have been as big as Queen, and such is the case for Samantar as well. The response for both these shows in two different regional languages has been very positive and that encourages us to double down on those investments as well.
OTT has really shown the way for out-of-the-box thinking content. How does it resonate with tier 3 and tier 4 audiences?
Yes, that is correct; I think all of us platforms have become truly authentic in our storytelling. A lot more real, a lot more engaged. The characters are defined a lot better, the storytelling is interesting, there is a certain pace that the narrative style allows you to do, and I think that is also what is resonating with tier 3 and 4, down the pop strata. I believe these have always been a typically underserved audience and they were hungry for this kind of content. Unfortunately, the only other access to such content was television which was producing only a limited variety of stories. Cinema sometimes did, sometimes did not, it was also a very expensive proposition and therefore I think that now, it doesn’t matter whether you belong to metros or tier 1 or tier 2 or tier 3 or tier 4, I think everybody has come to a point where they appreciate good content.
Aashram 1 and 2 have been massive hits for MX, how are you keeping the momentum with your content?
It is a challenge to come up with such big shows and make them super successful. There is another part of Aashram that we are in the process of making as well so that will add to this year’s kitty. But I think it is important to make sure that the scale of that show, its unique storytelling, and the world that we create keep getting refined over each edition. And obviously, that is the attempt for most content people to come up with such interesting worlds, to come up with such appealing characters, and to come up with intriguing storylines.
The year has started well for you, you have launched about 17 shows, how are you able to keep the foot on the pedal and maintain the momentum?
It’s been extremely tough; it’s been 1 and a half years that we have been living with covid restrictions and that has considerably limited production. It’s a difficult phase for all of us to shoot within the restrictions that covid brings along with it, the protocols that it brings along with it. That said, the safety and wellbeing of our extended cast and crew are foremost and we adhere to all the stipulated rules to T. Therefore, I think the lesser the covid restrictions in the future, the more content you will see from all of us, I guess. This is not really the gas on the pedal, the gas on the pedal will happen once all covid restrictions are lifted, that’s when you will see a lot more action coming into the OTT space.
IndoriIshq is a story of a small-town boy obsessed with a girl. How was this story strategized and does this type of content resonate with the urban audience?
Our largest audience on the platform is from 18 to 24 and it is imperative that we keep telling them their own stories, the ones that they can relate with. IndoriIshq was a book written by an individual of that age, representing the trials and tribulations of young love which therefore really resonated with our TG. I think most young people do go through heartbreaks, they’re going through all these unfamiliar emotions and how our protagonist responds to his heartache has received a meaningful response from our audiences. As storytellers, it is imperative for us to be able to elicit an emotional response from the viewer – they either like it or hate it but they must engage with it and that’s the important part of any storytelling.
Recently you tied up with Alt Balaji for Broken But Beautiful 3, any more partnerships in the offing?
We have covered a large spectrum and got some great partnerships in placewith Viacom18, Sun NXT,Hoichoi and now we’ve got ALT Balaji on the platform. I believe the myriadkind of content that MX offers, I don’t think anybody in this system offers such a wide range of content. We’re always on the hunt for meaningful content associations that can satiate the diverse entertainment needs for our large user base and we’ll continue to amp that up in the future as well.