How MUBI is Animating India’s Love for World-Class Cinema
“We are very ambitious with our prospects in India. It is a unique opportunity for us to engage with a passionate community with deep cultural ties to film,” said Efe Cakarel, CEO, MUBI
MUBI, one of the world’s leading curated film streaming platforms, a production company and a distributor, recently clocked three enriching years in India — a nation that boasts one of the richest and most diverse cinema legacies across the globe. MUBI believes that in India, it has only begun its journey of establishing itself as the platform of choice for consuming great local and global cinema. Along the way, the platform is doubling down on presenting diverse filmmaking talents and narratives in all possible languages.
But what makes this platform — that blends the enchanting worlds of movies and art — strike a chord with heaps of Indian cinephiles? Why, over the coming years, is the Indian market well-placed to feature among the top global growth frontiers for MUBI? And finally, how has MUBI, with support from Times Bridge, gone about advancing its mission in India? Let’s dive in.
A. Video-streaming in India: A bundle of opportunities
The Indian film industry ranks amongst the world’s largest, in terms of the number of movies produced, and is most diverse, encompassing multiple languages, dialects, styles, and narratives. India is also one of the largest markets for video streaming and digital content services, thanks to its large population and deep penetration of affordable mobile internet. Indian audiences are now swiftly embracing subscription-based services, with their willingness to pay for high-quality, niche content at an all-time high. In 2021, India recorded 80 million digital video subscriptions and over 400 million viewers. The number of screens is expected to top 1 billion by 2024-25, making India an appealing destination for streaming service providers. India’s diversification from being only a user base-market to a revenue-market is evidenced by the quadrupling of streaming revenues from ~$330M in 2020 to over $1.3 billion in 2022. The market will further expand at a CAGR of ~15% to scale to ~$2.6 billion by 2026.
It is this rare medley of a large and expanding market size, rising propensity to pay for content, and the fast-growing consumption of global and regional language content in India - alongside English and Hindi - that places MUBI at the forefront of this opportunity.
B. A primer on MUBI, the platform
MUBI is a place to discover beautiful, interesting, incredible cinema. A new hand-picked film arrives on the platform every single day, ranging from brand-new work by emerging filmmakers to modern masterpieces from today's greatest icons. The films, all carefully chosen by MUBI’s curators, are presented alongside the platform’s own ambitious productions.
Present in more than 190 countries, it is the world’s biggest community of film lovers with over 10 million members around the world. MUBI prides itself on catering to linguistic diversity, and giving a platform to diverse filmmaking voices from all corners of the world while maintaining a high standard for editorial and curatorial excellence.
C. MUBI’s playbook in India and Times Bridge’s go-to-market push
In early 2019, MUBI and Times Bridge began to design a roadmap that would carve out a niche for the film platform in India’s massive but cluttered streaming market. The endeavor was, and shall always be, to establish MUBI as the leader in bringing the world’s best arthouse and independent cinema to India and elevating interesting Indian stories globally. Together, we devised a thoughtfully-crafted playbook that would press on many go-to-market levers in a coherent fashion. A brief exploration of that playbook follows.
C.1 The pre-launch and launch phase
In the run-up to MUBI’s India launch in late 2019, the teams at MUBI and Times Bridge invested months in meticulously researching and landscaping the market to arrive at the right platform positioning, identifying MUBI’s prospective audience of core and early adopters and calibrating MUBI’s global pricing to suit the Indian appetite. Simultaneously, efforts to establish touch-points with influential Indian voices and celebrities began in earnest — through personalized outreach, early product access, closed-door meetups, and culture-centric conversations in avenues such as the Twitter Blue Room.
With all of the above - and much more - MUBI's launch narrative was then put into motion across several Times Group and external media assets, which earned an enthusiastic reception from India’s public figures and cinephiles alike. MUBI’s India entry was also special because India was one of the first global markets where MUBI launched a dedicated channel to exhibit local content, stories and artists — setting the tone for India to become the company’s global innovation ground.
C.2 Building influence and immersing in India’s entertainment zeitgeist
In every global market, MUBI strives to embody and showcase the local culture and zeitgeist. The platform crafts a spot for itself in pop culture and the consumer psyche through two key drivers: thought leadership-led influence and brand-building.
MUBI views collaborations with India’s entertainment sector — represented by actors, directors, critics, film journalists, film organizations, et al — as the gateway into India’s cinema consumption trends. Since 2020, the streaming platform has partnered with Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI), India's leading platform for cinematic disruption and discovery; leading film festivals; and film academies such as IFFI Goa, Dharamshala Film Festival, and the India Film Project. Furthermore, its guest curation program became a forum for credible voices (including A-listers Vikramaditya Motwane, Ram Madhvani, Prahlad Thakkar, and Sonal Dabral) to share their movie recommendations and curated lists with Indian audiences. The Travel the World with MUBI initiative was one such unique curation partnership between MUBI and Business Insider India to enable people to experience the cultures of 12 different countries in a virtual but immersive manner. It was strategically activated in mid-2020 - a period when real-world traveling had come to a screeching halt.
On the brand-building front, MUBI has leveraged the reach and familiarity of several Times Group media assets to co-create several original IPs, shows, and high-octane brand campaigns across print, TV, and digital mediums. Many such initiatives were timed and contextualized with key cultural moments such as Indian festivals, MUBI’s own anniversaries, exclusive movie releases, and more.
C.3 Fueling sustained growth through ecosystem partnerships
With a deep focus on strengthening its partner ecosystem in India, MUBI continues to forge meaningful and long-term associations with like-minded platforms in India. Driven by both MUBI and Times Bridge, these partnerships have aided MUBI’s growth in the country and helped more people experience unique works from Indian and international filmmakers that are otherwise difficult to discover and access.
One primary focus area has been experience-focused partnerships. One with PVR Cinemas, India’s largest cineplex chain, reintroduced MUBI GO this year, allowing MUBI’s subscribers to relish one movie in their nearest PVR theater every week. Tie-ups with India’s most premium members’ clubs, like Soho House, The French Institute of India, The Quorum, and others have further disseminated MUBI’s signature offline screening experience among India’s most discerning, top-of-the-pyramid consumers.
MUBI has also done well securing partnerships that power at-scale product distribution and sampling among diverse demographics and geographies within India. Think telecom operators, leading consumer banks, boutique direct-to-consumer brands, some of the largest digital loyalty programs, and content platforms including Amazon Prime Video, Airtel Xstream and Film Companion.
C.4 Indian content slate as the driver of localization and relevance
There is hardly any other country where as many film industries exist in different languages, dialects, and styles as India. That alone makes the country a unique space for film curation. To stay on top of it, MUBI has acquired a diverse selection of Indian and global films like Shiva Baby, Sweat, Nainsukh, Gamak Ghar, The Booth, Maheshinte Prathikaram, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Ema, and Certified Copy. The specials on iconic movie creators such as Kieslowski, Kiarostami, Satyajit Ray, and Amit Dutta have found great resonance with audiences all across the country. Unsurprisingly, MUBI’s Indian content has also received a great response from its global audience. Impressed with the global love for Indian cinema, MUBI also did a deep-dive on one of Bollywood’s timeless epics ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ in its popular global podcast series.
Movies are inextricably linked to India’s long-standing heritage and, in a country with rapidly-changing tastes and ever-evolving consumer preference for quality content, MUBI strives to continuously delight a massive audience that seeks the best of global and Indian cinema. For a market like India, which is home to many unique audiences who crave high-quality theatrical and streaming experiences, MUBI is well-positioned to redefine content consumption in the country and we, at Times Bridge, are proud to advance its mission in this part of the world.
Until next time!
By Abhinav Bansal