Divya Dixit on ALTBalaji’s AVOD foray, content strategy & the success of Lock Upp

‘Lock Upp’ has been the trigger moment for ALT Balaji to launch an AVOD tier, says Divya Dixit, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Revenue, ALTBalaji. In an interview with Adgully, Dixit says that there is nothing called ‘AVOD is the way forward’ or ‘SVOD is the way forward’. “It all depends on what your business goals are”, she asserts. She says that launching AVOD gives you “wider reach and acceptance amongst the new audience base that are probably fence sitters, and they get their first taste of OTT, convenience usage, content quality, etc.” Excerpts:

Was the massive success of ‘Lock Upp’ the prime trigger for the launch of AVOD component? Or, has it been coming for a long time?

For any AVOD platform launch, typically you need a depth of the content and a trigger moment. So for ALTBalaji, 'Lock Upp' has been that trigger moment for the AVOD launch and of course, the AVOD platform at ALTBalaji is also populated by certain originals which are now available for consumers to view for free.

The only target can be to grow the indices over and above the existing indices for the SVOD business. For AVOD business we need to circulate and grow it and that will be a phased manner of business.

Ad-supported video is the new hot thing in streaming, with many major streaming services (even ad-averse SVOD platforms) considering the option. Is the AVOD the way going forward?

There is nothing called the AVOD is the way forward or SVOD is the way forward. It all depends on what your business goals are. At ALTBalaji, we have already started a successful SVOD streaming service. And the next logical conclusion was that if you need to further enhance the revenue what’s the further additions that we could create over and above the existing revenue streams, and AVOD is that added revenue stream or the added revenue layer that we work towards and launch.

What are the key objectives of adding the AVOD, such as expanding the user base, reaching a wider audience, etc.?

Like I said earlier, there was of course the fact that you are looking at an added revenue layer; you are also looking at interacting more within the audience base that is probably sitting on the fence, not wanting to invest right now. At least AVOD allows them a free sampling of the OTT, the convenience methodology, the kind of original content which is available, etc. It thereby reaches out to a wider audience, and another strata of the audience or probably the fence-sitters. Then there is, of course, the fact that the free guest or the free uses that comes on AVOD can also be utilised for cross-sell and upsell propositions for the SVOD. So, there are multiple benefits and multiple parameters that are associated with launching an AVOD and SVOD. Critically it’s a good mix, a healthy mix. It’s a healthy cross-sell and upsell that can be applied; it’s a good revenue stream, additional revenue stream on a already-successful SVOD platform.

And it also gives you wider reach and acceptance amongst the new audience base that are probably fence-sitters and they get their first taste of OTT, convenience usage, content quality, etc.

What are the unique content marketing strategies that led to the immense success of ‘Lock Upp’?

After Ekta R Kapoor announced the reality show on social media, the makers shared all the details about it on February 3 during a press conference. Kangana Ranaut revealed the details of 16 contestants who will be locked up. Their task will be to compete to survive in the jail with any amenities. Then they released the posters. Soon, the teaser trailer was released, and the audience got a glimpse of the reality show’s theme with the host.

There were 21 brands that used ‘Lock Upp’ to engage with its audience base. The OTT platform collaborated with brands such as PVR Multiplex, RED FM, Growfitter, ShareChat, Josh, Triller, Moj, and Chingari with live interactions, and contests. The official radio partner, RED FM, undertook a campaign playing their tagline and the vibe of the show ‘Lock Upp mein sabki bajti hai, Aaj kiski bajegi’.

ALTBalaji introduced a Lock Upp Filter on Instagram to connect with the audience. In this filter, people will get to know the funny reasons to be inside LockUpp. The LockUpp team also created an AI-based chatbot named Jio Bot to interact with fans. The chatbot let fans to connect with Kangana.

After a series of pre-buzz initiatives, the show was launched on February 27, 2022. ‘Lock Upp’ became the highest watched reality show on Indian OTT space with 200 million views in a month.

How is ALTBalaji’s diaspora audience faring? Do you have any plans to foray into more overseas markets this year?

ALTBalaji has always been an international product; the app is available across all global markets to be downloaded, paid and subscribed to. We have seen a great footfall with ‘Lock Upp’. In fact, we have seen incremental footfall from around the globe, which we consider as great news. Are we going to expand further? Yes, we might expand further by dubbing more content into global languages. In terms of availability, the product is already available across the entire globe to be downloaded and subscribe to.

What are the key metrics that you use for the renewal of popular shows? Is it a blend of audience data or gut feeling, or the blend of both that you use to test the viability of projects?

So, for reviving the popular shows, it is always a mix of data and narrative. Of course, the fact that any show comes back with the second season is itself is a testimony to the platform’s willingness to further take upon the sequel of the show. For example, ‘Apharan’, ‘Broken But Beautiful’, ‘Kehno Ko Humsafar Hain’, ‘Ragini MMS’, ‘Test Case’, ‘Code M’, etc. The fact that we are creating sequels to such shows obviously means that the data – which is basically the audience engagement, the number of subscriptions, etc., among the many metrics – has been good. Of course, the gut plays a key role, where you are looking at the narrative of the sequel, and also how it is this going to be better than the first season, how it is going to appeal to the audience better than the first season to be a success, because there is always going to be a comparison. And that is where the content gut and casting gut plays a very defining role.

What are your plans in the non-Hindi regional language content space in the near future? What are the key trends that you foresee this year?

ALTBalaji has always been in the regional language business. We will always fortify our position in the Hindi-speaking markets, whether in India or across the globe. So, that is always going to be the focus, and we are always going to create our own unique originals.

In terms of trends, I see two kinds of tracks that are going to continue. The individual track, which gradually runs through the mobile economy of the country where people see individual shows, have individual viewing habits at late at nights, while travelling, etc. And there is going to be a getting together in the living room as a family and watching certain shows which are meant for the family, which happens through connected devices. In fact, connected TV sale in India is growing at 24% CAGR as per the latest reports, and we are hoping that this will obviously bring in a very strong inclusive viewing culture. Our content strategy will be tailored and is being adapted to address both the requirements.

I also feel that simpler UI, UX, vertical videos, gamification, AI, VR, etc., are the critical areas which will play an important role. In fact, at ALTBalaji, keeping all these in mind, we have launched a Metaverse along with our ‘Lock Upp’ show, which is a parallel game universe, where you can enter and play the game of ‘Lock Upp’ as one of the contestants.


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