Balalji Telefilms’ digital video streaming platform ALTBalaji might be entering the OTT space a tad too late, but it’s making sure it makes all the right moves before its launch on April 15. It is launching with five original shows starring popular TV and film faces such as Rajkumar Rao, Nimrat Kaur, Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar, and helmed by renowned directors such as Nagesh Kukunoor and Hansal Mehta. It has also entered into partnerships with mobile wallet MobiKwik and handset manufacturer Micromax, amongst others. Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALT Digital Media Entertainment Limited (the Balaji subsidiary that runs the OTT platform), throws some light on the content strategy, business model and how ALTBalaji will edge past other players. Excerpts:
What is your content strategy?
We are launching with five original shows and 40 video shorts. There is a huge underserved audience in India which wants to see original and exclusive content. We see this as an opportunity in delivering the content to them over the Internet and have launched this OTT platform. It enables us to be a serious B2C player and also own IP for the content that we are producing.
Our strategy is to be original and exclusive. We will be putting out 32 shows a year, each comprising 10 to 15 episodes, running anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes (each episode). That will make us the largest provider of original exclusive content on digital by volume. Out of 32 shows, six will be regional shows. Right now we are committed to doing shows in Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, and Punjabi. We will select two languages six months after our launch, depending on the analytics.
As part of our programming mix, we have some shows that cater to a different audience. For example, ‘Karrle Tu Bhi Mohabbat,’ ‘The Test Case’ and ‘Dev DD’ all have different audience profiles.
We will not have catch-up TV. We will have 19 of our own movies, 81 comedy videos, and 100 original kids shorts (between three and 10 minutes) with original animation characters. However, every 10 to 15 days, we will put out a new show. Unlike a television launch, an OTT launch is not a one-day business.
Who is your TG?
Our content strategy from a consumer angle is to aim at the segment of consumers who spend Rs 4,000 or more per month on e-commerce and have a good 3G experience on their phone. That roughly works out to anywhere between 75 million and 100 million consumers in India today. In addition, we will be targeting another 25 million Indian consumers outside the Indian geography.
How much have you invested on content?
We have raised around Rs 150 crore. More than 50 per cent of this will go towards producing original content. It can be even more.
What caused the delay in entering the OTT landscape?
Developing such a large-scale inventory of shows took a fair amount of consumer analysis and understanding. We wanted to bring a variety of shows. We have shows helmed by Nagesh Kukunoor, Hansal Mehta, and Ken Ghosh, amongst others. All of them have a different flavour.
Also, post December, we wanted to see the effect of demonetisation and how it would impact us. While we were slated to launch earlier this year, we wanted to see if this is a good environment to launch in. And, we believe now that this is a great time to launch.
Also, many telecom players in the market have changed their strategy in addressing the Indian market. The Internet has spread. We wanted to wait and watch for a few months.
Could you tell us something about your business model?
It is entirely the SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) model. We have two or three pillars for our SVOD strategy. If we double the market size of original exclusive content, then people will pay. To reach out to the maximum number of people, we will be making 30 to 50 per cent of our offerings free. The first half of our series will be free. Only if they like the first half would they be obligated to pay for the second half. This will be on for 12 months.
We will be charging Rs 60 a month. We have an offer of Rs 300 for 12 months (which will run from April to July). The rates for international audience will be doubled.
What’s the potential of SVOD in India?
By 2020, it will see a USD 1.5 billion to USD 2 billion market size. But, this will happen when the industry recognizes the need to deliver original, exclusive content to the Indian consumer. We are confident that this is what the Indian consumer wants. If that proposition is something we can fulfill, then the market is likely to expand positively.
What are your marketing plans?
Content, not pricing, is at the core of our marketing. It will lead through visual promos. Our target audience, as we define it, is the urban mass aged between 20 and 40 years; 70-80 per cent of our marketing efforts will be digitally driven.
Our strategy of exposing visuals and captivating promos will enable us to have a greater degree of virality. This is because we have a wide range of products and we are going to come out with shows every 15 days. We have the ability to go back to our consumer every 15 days, inviting him/her to our channel on a consistent basis. This is the first time in India where someone will have a consistent programmable output for a digital audience.
We are aware that we don’t have the support of a large network like some of our competition, therefore our marketing spends will be efficiently targeting groups and creating great campaigns or advertisements for the shows to ensure virality. We are going to be smarter and will reach out to the audience more efficiently. Given our great content, I am sure it will be shared and will go viral.
How do you propose to stand out?
ALTBalaji will stand out for its ability to have original and exclusive content. It is differentiated and caters to a wide range of digital audience in a wide variety of languages. We pioneer the language, volume, and scale- in-production value. The fact that we will have close to 70 episodes on Day 1 and 140 episodes in the first three months bears testimony to the fact that we are banking on huge scale and volume of original, exclusive content. In addition, we have the expertise that Balaji has gathered over the years in understanding the Indian consumer.
We have integrated with a lot of distribution partners and platforms. We are available across iOS, Android stores, Roku, and Amazon Fire. Primarily our original exclusive content allows us to have a consistent and scalable marketing strategy to acquire consumers. A combination of both of these will enable success.
When are you looking to break even?
I can’t reveal that right now. If the Internet penetration continues the way it is progressing today, we should see great results in 24 months from now.
You have tied up with carrier billing payments company Fortumo, Micromax, and mobile wallet MobiKwik. What is the strategy behind these partnerships?
Being SVOD, we have the opportunity to symbiotically share revenues with our partners. That is the advantage we have. When we work with them, we understand their target groups. That enables us to market our shows and in effect, our platform more effectively to these partners’ consumers. We believe there is a growth story emerging for handset manufacturers and that with data usage, for telecom players. We hope to ride on that growth story.
Who do you treat as competition?
It is a highly competitive field. From large global players, who are making significant investments, to local players, who have a combination of global investments and local expertise in the market, all of them need to be taken seriously.
What’s your target?
We aim to have 20 million registered users by March 31, 2018. It remains to be seen how many of them will be actually converted to paid users.