When was the last time you used a video app on your Android smartphone?

Probably last night, just before calling it a day from a tiring start to the week. Chances are that the last used video app on your smartphone is maybe one of these: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, or YouTube. But what if we told you about a little-known app, well, little known to the urban elite, but one which a vast majority of India uses. One that you may have never heard of. Beyond metros, on low-end smartphones, one that renders the best picture quality and plays every format. A popular use case, by the way, is playing videos downloaded from WhatsApp, and of course, watching porn.

This app does not have an official website. Only a Facebook page.

It is called MX Player, an app made by a company in South Korea. But it is so popular in India that it has inspired several knockoffs on the Google Play Store. Last year alone, over 63.6 million Indian users downloaded it on their Android smartphones, according to mobile insights and data company AppAnnie. This includes both low-end and high-end smartphones, with the split said to be somewhere between 80% to 20% respectively. Year after year, MX Player has found a place on India’s app usage lists and reports, each year in the top 10. Both in terms of downloads and monthly active users.

It will be fair to say that somewhere in Gangnam-gu, Seoul, a certain JH Kim, is becoming a rich man. Overnight. About $200-million rich. Because that is the money Gurugram-based Times Internet Limited (TIL) has paid to acquire a majority stake in his company, J2 Interactive. The deal, completed a few weeks ago, sources say, is all in cash. Where did TIL get access to $200 million in cash considering its yearly revenue is just shy of the $200 million number? Sources say, from the parent company, Bennett Coleman & Co (BCCL). The Ken couldn’t independently verify this.

Times Internet Limited declined to respond to The Ken’s questions about the acquisition.

Of all of them, the most important one is the $200 million question; why MX player?

The short answer to this question is that TIL wants to take yet another shot at the already overcrowded over-the-top (OTT) video space. It will launch its service in the coming months, somewhere around the second quarter of 2018. MX Player gives the company instant scale.

Now Times Internet already caters to a monthly active user base of 270 million. Now add another 100 million to this. And with that comes a readymade presence in Android smartphones, not just in India, but around the world.


Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

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