Xiaomi on Friday announced a partnership with Disney+ Hotstar to provide its Mi TV customers early access to Bollywood movie titles releasing under the ‘Multiplex’ banner. The company will begin the new experience by offering early access to six movie titles, starting with Lootcase. Mi TV users will be able to access the comedy drama movie at 5:30pm on Friday — two hours ahead of its official release, which is scheduled for 7:30pm.
Other movies releasing under the Multiplex banner on Disney+ Hotstar will also get this early access, the company said. This means that Mi TV users will get priority streaming of Laxmmi Bomb, Bhuj: The Pride of India, Sadak 2, and other new titles debuting on the OTT platform. Each of these titles will be featured on the top of the Home screen of PatchWall on Mi TVs to let users easily watch them — ahead of their official release for others.
Mi TVs Category Lead in India Eshwar Nilakantan told Gadgets 360 over a video call that the new development is aimed to offer consumers with the “first day, first show” kind of experience that they’re getting in the pre-COVID times. However, there is no clarity on whether early access would be expanded to future titles beyond the initial bouquet of six movies. It is also unclear whether Xiaomi will continue to deliver the new experience along with Disney+ Hotstar once the coronavirus outbreak ends, as production houses would then most likely resume the traditional theatrical release model.
“For the future, we will have to look at how the whole thing pans out and we’ll take a call on a case-to-case basis,” Nilakantan said.
He also pointed out that key reasons that Xiaomi was able to convince Disney+ Hotstar to provide early access on its Mi TVs over the competitors were its user base of over 40 lakh users and the distinct experience through both the hardware and software perspectives. Importantly, both Xiaomi and Disney+ Hotstar had already worked together on enabling one-click play, sports page, and universal search on PatchWall.
Disney+ Hotstar brought its Multiplex feature in late June to premier Bollywood movies and released Dil Bechara as the first title earlier this month. However, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix have also provided a similar experience in the past.
Nilakantan told Gadgets 360 that at present Xiaomi is only working with Disney+ Hotstar to provide early access to Mi TV consumers. Also, the new change won’t take place for Mi Box users as only it works with PatchWall, which isn’t there on the company’s streaming box.
Growth in regional content consumption, overall user engagements
After it entered the market back in February 2018, Xiaomi has been leading the smart TV market in India. The company has a share of 27 percent in the first quarter of this year, according to Counterpoint Research. But apart from catering to the dominating, Hindi-speaking audience, it also serves its smart TV experience to regional viewers in the country.
Anisha Mehta, Strategic Partnerships and Content Operations for Mi TV at Xiaomi, told Gadgets 360 that a lot of people are consuming regional content on its Mi TVs, with Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, and Marathi being the top six languages on the platform after Hindi. There are apps including Sun Nxt and Aha to serve regional content on Mi TV models.
“Some of the key Language Universals that we have showcased on PatchWall are also these languages because we know that people are consuming these languages more,” she said.
Aside from the increase in regional content consumption, Xiaomi has seen a significant spike in overall user engagements on PatchWall since March as people are staying indoors mostly to avoid getting infected by COVID-19. Mehta told Gadgets 360 that people are not only spending more time on their TVs but also diving into multiple content, using various OTT apps, and consuming and streaming Web content.
“In terms of purely engagements pre-COVID versus during the lockdown period, we have seen at least 2x or 3x increasing engagements on PatchWall,” she noted.
PatchWall for Mi Box incoming?
Xiaomi has been offering its proprietary PatchWall on Mi TVs to deliver a distinguished experience to consumers. However, it launched the Mi Box 4K streaming device in India in May with a vanilla Android TV experience instead of giving PatchWall on top of Android TV. That change is limiting Mi Box users from getting one-click access to content, which is there on Mi TVs, as well as the latest early access development.
Nilakantan of the Mi TV division told Gadgets 360 that there was an intense debate internally on whether Mi Box should come with PatchWall, and it was ultimately decided that it would be offered with stock Android TV.
“What we realised was PatchWall was not as much important on Mi Box as it is on Mi TV because a consumer who’s buying a Mi Box is like a seasoned OTT consumer, at least he or she has a Hotstar subscription, most likely a Netflix and a Prime subscription as well, and has been consuming content for the last one or two years. So, they’re not in the beginning stage, they’re already at the top of the learning curve as in consuming content,” he said.
He also stated that there are also certain hardware requirements that are needed to enable PatchWall, which isn’t there on Mi Box. Nevertheless, he did mention that they’re “exploring if that could be done in the future.”
Why do Indians love Xiaomi TVs so much? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.