ALTBalaji has clocked revenues of Rs 29 cr for Q3 2018: Nachiket Pantvaidya

Homegrown OTT platform ALTBalaji has completed two years. With over 36 originals currently, ALTBalaji aims to further bolster this content library with a committed pipeline of around 100 shows by 2020. 

To better connect with, and involve fans in the 2nd year celebrations, the platform will launch a digital contest, ‘ALTBalaji Ka Sabsebada fan’, where 2 winners will get a chance to meet their favourite star. A Twitter contest will be hosted on ALTBalaji’s official handle from April 19 to 22, wherein multiple questions will be asked about the shows at regular intervals. Winners of the contest will be announced on April 23 and two actors from the ALT family will personally go visit them, adding fervour to the activity. 

In addition to the celebrations, the platform will also launch ‘#BreastBuffer’ – a breast cancer awareness campaign, through a distinct and personal reminder as a pre roll, while the show is about to begin. By redesigning their buffer symbol in a unique manner, ALTBalaji aims to sensitise people for the early detection of this form of cancer. 

Currently ranked No. 3 in the list of Top Grossing Video Streaming Apps in the country (Source: App Annie), ALTBalaji’s subscriber base stands at 13.1 million, with 4.6 million monthly active users (MAUs) who spend an average of 70 minutes on the platform per day. The platform has consistently been amongst the top-5 grossing entertainment video streaming apps in India as per the Google Play Store rankings. 

Speaking on the 2nd anniversary, Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms, said, “Entertaining viewers with innovative content has been the core ethos of the group and very significantly runs in the DNA of ALTBalaji too. Celebrating the journey of 2 glorious years is a very proud moment for us as we set foot into the third year. By constantly working on an effective content strategy to cater to individuals, we aim to ramp up our offerings in the Originals space at an exciting pace. With a total of 18 new originals across genres launched last year, the content-library is growing bigger and getting more extensive. This also reflects in our growing subscriber base, with ALTBalaji consistently ranking in the 3 Top Grossing Apps on both iOS and Android.” 

On growing the regional base, Pantvaidya told Adgully that the OTT platform has shows in Tamil, Telugu, Bangla and recently added Bhojpuri. However, the prime focus continues to be on Hindi content. “It’s not the question of economics, but the time that the organisation spends; if the organisation spends a certain time, we get 8x in Hindi today in terms of viewership. We will start getting into regional seriously in January 2020,” he added. 

As far as international viewership is concerned, it is less than 5 per cent at present. In terms of male-female viewership, it is an equal 50-50 distribution, however, in terms of paying there is skew of 65-35 skewed towards male viewers. 

ALTBalaji has plans to further grow its base amongst the Indian Diaspora. It saw great traction for its shows, ‘Test Case’ and ‘Bose’, in the US and the UK. Pantvaidya added, “The interesting markets have been the South Asian markets of Malaysia and Indonesia, where our content is dubbed in languages of these two countries. These will be our volume point as the culture is very similar and some of our TV actors are very popular in these markets. Our international strategy is two-fold – first is the South Asian Markets, as Indians form a huge chunk of the population of both these countries, thus volume will definitely accrue from these markets; secondly, our content is also dubbed in Arabic for the Middle East markets.”

In conversation with Adgully, Nachiket Pantvaidya speaks at length about the growth of ALTBalaji, the stress on Indian Originals, the right duration of the episodes, revenue strategy and much more. Excerpts: 

How has the two-year journey bee at ALTBalaji?
A lot has happened in these 2 years – we have clocked double-digit paying subscription and we are consistently among the top 3 on Apple as well as the Android store. Revenue wise we have done very well, in the first year we clocked revenues of Rs 7 crore and in the first 3 quarters of the second year we have already clocked revenues of Rs 28-29 crore and by the end of the second year our revenues would be 6x that of the first year. 

When we started ALTBalaji many were sceptical about whether people would pay for content in India, but we have been able to get a growing subscriber base for the VOD model; secondly, we were told that the urban mass content that we did was not where digital stood, which primarily comprised of English content. But as we stand among the top 3 on Apple and Android stores, it defeats that argument. We have proved that local Original content can be made for a homegrown content platform and create a revenue stream in the country. 

Have you achieved the targets that you had set?
Yes, we are in line with our business plan in terms of spending as well as revenue. We had set a target of spending Rs 150 crore a year for the first 3 years; we have done it in the first 2 years and will continue in the 3rd year. Out of the Rs 150 crore, Rs 100 crore is for content, while Rs 50 crore has been earmarked for marketing plus people. 

What is your pricing strategy?
At less than Re 1 per day, that has been the cornerstone of our pricing strategy. 

Could you elaborate on your telco partnerships?
The consumer acquisition cost, when compared to our telco partnership, is nothing. Today, if you have to acquire a consumer directly, it costs anywhere between Rs 106 and Rs 120, depending on your acquisition strategy at the time of the month, but with telco partnerships, it becomes zero. 

When we had started, we had only 6 shows, which have now grown to 35 shows. We will review our partnership strategies as we go along. In our initial days we didn’t have a big library of content, hence it was very important for us to use our partners to market our content to reach out to a wider base and then to be part of a larger telco internet business space. This will change in the next 6 months to a year. 

What trends do you see in the short format entertainment space – be it video or OTT?
That’s the other thing everyone said – that only short format content will work. What is the definition of short format? Is it 3 minutes or 20 minutes? At ALTBalaji, we are very clear that we will not make shows less than 18-minute duration per episode and usually our shows are of 10-15 episodes, but in some cases there could be some extra special episodes. Our challenge right now is how to crunch the seasons so that they come fast. Six out of the 35 shows will go to Season 2. The challenge is how to milk the hits and create scale for the hits. Do you go big, or do you tamper with the creatives or continue with the same creative vein for the hits? The advantage we have is that we have a lot of data and can make data-based decisions fast.

Is this also related to binge watching?
If the content is compelling, people will come back and watch more. Leaving that aside, from an economic standpoint marketing all at one go is good. We feel that there is enough space to create daily programming in India, the marketability of dailies is minimal as there is only a 24-hour gap between episodes. How to make a digital daily is what we are contemplating now, without making it into a television kind of format, which is quite challenging. 

How is the second screen experience changing consumers’ viewing habits?
One is choice to view individually; secondly, it’s not a habit as there is no forced schedule, whereas watching TV at a designated time is a habit. The second screen is actually destroying this habit and increasing consumption. 

Where do you see your next 30 million subscribers coming from?
Firstly, we have to balance our partnerships and our direct subscribers. At some stage we will have to say we have enough content in our library for us to fully get into the game and become like an OTT platform that advertises a lot. It will take us another 12 months to reach that stage. For this to happen, we have to understand as to how we price our content, currently our content is priced at Rs 300 a year. We need to figure out as to what is a good entry point currency. 

Secondly, we have to ensure that at least 6-7 of our series will have a second season and will come out soon. Third is the growing competition on the price front. We started with a low price and we have accrued the advantage by garnering volume because of the low price. Now we are seeing every competitor lowering their prices to attract consumers. Our calling card in this competitive market will be to ‘sachetise’ our content more – if somebody is offering it at Rs 250 a month, I want to offer it at Rs 10 a week. To do this, I need a library and data to see how people consume content and to retain these consumers as they are difficult to retain. At this point, we are thinking our way through how to make it affordable for India. Will this damage the overall brand if everything is sold at Rs 25? If everybody sees my library, will my ARPUs go down? These are the questions that we are looking at.


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