ALTBalaji wants to dominate Hindi-speaking markets: Nachiket Pantvaidya

The Alt Balaji CEO & Group COO of Balaji Telefilms spoke to exchange4media about the rise in subscription during lockdown, financial performance of the platform and its expansion plans

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jul 29, 2020 8:57 AM
Nachiket Pantvaidya

While COVID-19 and the lockdown has had a severe impact on businesses across the board, digital mediums did witness a surge in subscriptions and hits.

Balaji Telefilms’ OTT platform Alt Balaji, too, recorded a hike of 60% with a strong uptake of its digital subscriptions, breaking records with an average of 17,000 new subscribers per day.

Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms spoke to exchange4media about the rise in subscriptions, the platform’s financial performance, expansion plans, content strategy and more.

Edited excerpts:

What kind of growth have you witnessed in the subscriber base as compared to the pre-COVID era?

Lockdown has resulted in a digital boom across the country and so the graph of digital entertainment consumption has gone through the roof. The average daily subscriber addition for ALTBalaji in Q4FY20 stands at 12,300 as compared to 10,000 in Q3FY20. We have had a high engagement with subscribers and continue to witness higher screen time during the lockdown. 

As per the latest Q4 report, we are happy to announce that ALTBalaji continues to remain one of the top five paid apps in the country. It is one of the most affordable OTT options with plans at Rs 300 a year / Rs 100 a quarter (less than Re 1 a day). 

Which new markets are AltBalaji tapping into now?

As per the Q4 report, 44% of the consumer base belongs to the 8 big cities including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune, whereas 56% of the consumer base belongs to non-metro and tier 2/tier 3 towns and cities. 

The user profile of male viewers is 70 and female is 30, and 75% of the user base is below 35 years. By tapping into these hinterlands, we’ve realized the growing demand for Hindi originals that those audiences find immensely relatable. This has helped us understand our viewers better and has led us to curate more engaging and entertaining offerings that resonate with them.

What is going to be your focus area now since production has resumed? Has the content strategy changed during the lockdown? 

 At ALTBalaji, we are focusing on ensuring that we dominate the Hindi speaking markets and cement our position as a leader in this segment. We will continue creating shows for individual as well as family viewing. The lockdown has accelerated digital growth and has enhanced our understanding of our new generation viewers and led to us create more engaging and entertaining offerings. Content strategies are always dependent on the external socio-economic environment. 

How many of your shows are in the pipeline?  

We have almost 11-12 shows which have already been shot and are in various stages of post-production. These can be put to action even while working from home. We also have 20-25 more shows in the pipeline. We have begun with a few of the shoots for our future series. Safety measures have been put in place and we are ensuring the safety protocols are implemented correctly.

During the lockdown, digital consumption has increased multi-folds. Does that impact your investment plans? What is your target for the current fiscal?   

We will invest in all our business verticals as the last financial year has shown strong growth for the group across TV, movies and digital. Having said that, we will focus more on digital business as content consumption is increasing on that medium. We will smartly balance the investment in movies and continue to do co-production deals wherever possible. 

ALTBalaji has had a strong revenue growth for the year – FY20 revenue stands at Rs 77 crore compared to FY19’s Rs 41 crore. Our direct to consumer billing continues to grow as ALTBalaji has pivoted from multi-partner (free to customer) to single partner (behind paywall) environment.

The nation-wide lockdown has impacted the growth of content in all sectors and not just the Media & Entertainment industry. On the other side, the online content consumption has increased considerably and we are confident that there will be a surge in demand for content once the situation gets back to its normalcy. We have been observing the market graph of demand and supply very closely and are prepared to boost content sales once the lockdown is over. Our costs are getting controlled in the first half of fiscal 2020 and the loss margin has further reduced. 

What are your expansion plans? 

We are aiming at strengthening our base in the Hindi speaking belt. Our vast survey and understanding of the market suggest that 70 per cent of the content consumed is in Hindi. So, our goal is to make that market strong and establish ourselves as the strongest OTT platform. Once that is established, we will progress towards tapping other regional markets in the near future, as a lot of our Hindi offerings have also been dubbed in India and international languages like Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu amongst others. We shall also focus on expanding our language content library in the coming years. 

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