Amazon deal off; MX Player eyes funding

With several players targeting the AVoD market now, MX Player is facing the challenge of staying afloat and relevant. (iStockphoto)
With several players targeting the AVoD market now, MX Player is facing the challenge of staying afloat and relevant. (iStockphoto)

Summary

To sustain operations in the increasingly competitive AVoD market in India, the cash-strapped company needs funding.

New Delhi: Video streaming platform MX Player, owned by Times Internet Ltd, is exploring options to secure funding after its negotiations with Amazon Inc. for an acquisition hit a roadblock.

In its efforts to sustain operations in the increasingly competitive advertising video-on-demand market in India, the cash-strapped company needs funding, said people in the know, seeking anonymity.

With several players targeting the AVoD market now, MX Player is facing the challenge of staying afloat and relevant, they added. With its blind customer acquisition strategy not yielding results, the platform is now focusing on syndicating content through partnerships instead of creating own original content. With this strategic shift it is seeking to optimise its resources and improve offerings to woo more viewers and enhance engagement.

Queries emailed to spokespersons of both MX Player and Amazon went unanswered till press time.

“Understandably, Amazon has been extremely strict with due diligence, since data is primary to its business. That relationship is off the table. Meanwhile, other foreign companies see an opportunity since there is stress on the Amazon deal and MX has been negotiating with them, too," said one of the people cited above.

Amazon had been making high demands on criteria such as viewership, engagement, daily and monthly active users for the deal to go through, the person added.

The firm’s assumption that it had unlimited funds and was in a position to drive decision-making, has been its downfall, the second person said. “That strategy hasn’t served it well, and it is no longer looking to spend huge amounts to create content. Instead, it is pruning the model to syndicate more."

Last week, for instance, MX Player partnered DistroTV, an independent, free and ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) app via an app-in-app integration. MX Player users in India will now be able to stream DistroTV’s over 270 global channels for free, including nearly 180 Indian channels, for news, sports, movies, entertainment, lifestyle content and music.

MX Player, that was developed by a South Korean firm as a media player for downloaded videos, was acquired by Bennett Coleman and Co. (BCCL)- owned Times Internet in 2018 for 1,000 crore, before foraying into the video streaming space. It was relaunched as an ad-supported video streaming application.

The firm raised around $111 million in a funding round led by Chinese Internet giant Tencent in 2019, has not been able to generate enough cash for a while to fund its expansion.

Times Internet has been on a selling spree of some of its businesses. It sold its short-video platform MX Takatak to Temasek-backed ShareChat in February 2022, followed by Dineout to Swiggy in May in a stock deal, and in December it sold MensXP and iDiva, and an influencer marketeer Hypp to Mensa Brands, the same year.

Moreover, things have changed drastically in India’s AVoD streaming space. Not only are new players like JioCinema offering content largely for free, several other entities have joined the bandwagon, including Amazon itself that operates a free streaming service miniTV. A platform like Disney+Hotstar too is offering premium sports events at no cost to mobile users. Further, the losses are massive. Unlike TV, where pay channels garner maximum viewership and advertising, companies like Google and Facebook take up 60-70% of all digital advertising.

“Market dynamics have changed in the past few years. Plus, masses in tier-two and tier-three towns whom ad-led platforms were focusing on, have not emerged as great paying customers," said Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital Ltd.

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