OTTPlay from HT Labs, a part of HT Media, which started as a content recommendation platform on 1st May 2020, has onboarded 1,20,000 subscribers since it launched its bundled OTT app less than a year ago. A total of 19 OTT brands have been onboarded and can be streamed from within OTTPlay, including Zee5, Sony Liv, Namma Flix, Lionsgate Play, Sun Nxt and ManoramaMax.
The target is to grow this base to 1.5 million by the end of the financial year, said Avinash Mudaliar, Co-founder and CEO, HT Labs, in conversation with Medianews4u.com. But he wants to do it with healthy metrics leading to a profitable business in ‘a couple of years’.
“Data showed us that it took people 17 minutes to figure out what to watch on OTT, and they were still not ending up with content they wanted. Eighty percent were not happy with the recommendation their current OTT was giving them,” explained the CEO, on the genesis of OTTPlay.
Mudaliar, the chief patent holder of Saregama’s famed Carvaan where he was EVP before he moved to Network18 as Chief Product Officer, noted that the journey started with wanting to become the ‘voice of OTT’ and own the ‘OTTverse’. To that end, an editorial team puts out 130 to 140 pieces of content daily, including reviews. For OTT players, it is an opportunity to get in subscribers organically. With consumer feedback, the brand evolved into a bundled OTT offering.
“OTTs are spending Rs.3,000 to acquire a subscriber paying Rs.1,000. And people were saying, ‘Give us one platform where we can watch content from multiple sources, and tell us how much it will cost’,” he noted.
The Power Play pack on OTTPlay offers all 19 OTT brands that are on board now, at Rs. 299 per month or Rs. 2,499 annually. The market price of all the OTTs individually add up to over Rs.20,000 annually, underlined the CEO.
This value proposition has been sold via the D2C and B2B routes, but customers have not been acquired through digital advertising, as it is unviable.
“At one point, customer acquisition using the digital route used to make sense. You spent Rs.600 to acquire a customer who gave you Rs.900 in revenue. It doesn’t make sense to acquire a customer by spending Rs.3,000 when the revenue from that customer is Rs.999 per year. I don’t want to become a unicorn without horns,” said Mudaliar.
Asked about whether absence of Prime Video, Netflix and Disney Hotstar on OTTPlay is a disadvantage, the CEO said that there is a large enough audience that is not fixated on any one platform. They are willing to pay for what they want to consume, he added, underlining that the content depth that OTTPlay has through 19 OTTs is much larger than one or two platforms.
Ceding that talks are on with Hotstar, among other OTTs, he added, “We will only do it when the price is right.”
OTTPlay’s subscriber base is currently skewed towards the metros but this is changing with more regional content coming in, according to the spokesperson.
Despite cellular service providers and DTH players offering entertainment bundles, there exists a huge opportunity via internet service providers, held Mudaliar.
He explained, “ISPs will continue to stay relevant for the next 10 to 15 years. There are many ISPs who are not going to sell out to the Jios of the world. All of them have their own target base. And all of them want to give the same offering as the larger players to their consumers. They offer the broadband, but want someone to offer the OTT and service the OTT offering given to their customers. We are tying up with these guys and solving their problem, so ISPs are welcoming us.”
The Slurrp story
Food recommendation and recipes app Slurrp from the HT Labs stable should turn profitable in the next quarter, stated the CEO.
Built on the strength of HT Labs in recommendation engineering using AI and ML, it is now a food database housing over 3.5 lakh recipes. It has built a community of 1.5 lakh home chefs with 3.5 lakh interacting with Slurrp on Instagram, according to Mudaliar.
“Indians don’t measure their food. The calorific value depends on ingredients, the way a dish is cooked and even the state at which it is consumed. We have built an algorithm that looks at the recipe and tells you the calorific value,” he said.
In the last two years, Slurrp claims to have grown to attract 4.5 million unique visitors a month with average time spent of 7 to 8 minutes. Mudaliar added, “It must be one of the most engaging food apps in India, if not the most.”
Like OTT, content plays a big role in this space too, with around 100 articles a day, also helping Slurrp stay relevant on search.
Slurrp has multiple revenue streams including advertising, branded content, events and product-as-a-service. Among partners who have worked with Slurrp are Licious, JD and Beam Suntory.
“Slurrp is a separate business. We are close to being profitable. We should be EBIDTA positive in the next quarter,” surmised Mudaliar.
(Updated to reflect that Mudaliar is the chief patent holder of Saregama Carvaan at 11:50 hrs on 16th May 2023.)