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We will break even in next two and a half years: CEO, ALTBalaji

25-May-2018
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We will break even in next two and a half years: CEO, ALTBalaji

Within a year of its launch, Video on Demand (VoD) platform ALTBalaji has crossed the one million paid subscribers mark. According to Nachiket Pantvaidya, Group COO, Balaji Telefilms and CEO, ALTBalaji, the platform currently has more than 2.5 million paying subscribers and the target is to reach 8 million in three years. 

In a free-wheeling chat with exchange4media, Pantvaidya shared what's driving this growth, international expansion plan and his targets.

Excerpts

As you near 20 original shows on the app within a year and cross the one million pay subscriber mark, what is the strategy that ALTBalaji will follow going forward?

We are very happy to have nearly doubled our paying subscriber base from what we ended in March 31, which was 1.2 million. Today, we are with more than 2.5 million paying subscribers. In the last 40 days, we have added as many paying subscribers as we did in the first 12 months of our operation.

This is because of few reasons. One is that there is a momentum in India itself. This is not something that we control but internet is going down to the masses and spreading quickly which is largely driven by telecom companies offering internet for free. The second factor is that our library of original content has reached the masses and is appealing across sections. When we started, we had just six shows but now we have 20 shows. The third reason is that we’re the only player that has original exclusive content for the masses which again brings traction. While we have Bose: Dead/Alive and The Test Case on one hand, we also have Kehne ko humsafar hai and Ragini MMS Returns. We are the only player with this wide spectrum of content that appeals to tier 3 and tier 4 cities in India as well as the metros. The combination of these factors has ensured momentum.

'Dil Hi Toh Hai', the daily show made by Balaji and licensed to Sony TV for broadcast, will also stream on ALT. So is the launch of this first-ever daily show something like a catch up or it's a move with a strategic proposition? 

We believe that the digital content is slowly resonating in tandem with where TV resonates. About a year ago, our strategy or general acceptance in the market was that digital content is very different from TV content. But we’re seeing a convergence of these now. We’re trying out an experiment by putting out on this platform something that we’re putting out on television. The results of that will add to our data to strategize further. We’re trying to see that if we exclusively offer television content 24 hours after it goes on-air, what is the kind of audiences that we draw? We want to do this before really committing to a strategy. Six months down the line after we put this to test, we’ll be able to share more strategic insights on this. Right now, it’s just a thought experiment.

With Balaji now owning the IP of a show, will we see more shows on the platform?

We will see this progressing over the years because television is evolving into a free-to-air medium. We first want to understand the sensitivity of a viewer when it comes to catching up the content on another medium again and paying for it.

How is Balaji, through ALTBalaji, transforming from a B2B content provider to B2C company with a digital future?

There are two or three aspects to this transformation. One is that we own the IP for 20 odd shows on ALTBalaji. So the first-ever transformation is to own the IP of the shows. When we were a B2B company, we did only IP, but now we’re seeing value in owning IP. We have details of about 2.5 million paying subscribers. We are transforming our company to make it a curation company from a strictly manufacturing one. What I mean is that we used to make all our shows in-house, but with ALT, we are associated with 70 producers for whom we curate the content and supervise scripts, pretty much like a TV channel does. Except for the fact that we do it for digital.

Your content is seeing international traction, do we see you launching in international markets?

To be very honest, international traction for content has not even begun at this stage. Our international strategy is two-fold. We are in the US, UK and parts of South Africa. More importantly, we believe that our content travels to even non-Indian audiences. Towards the middle of June, we will be dubbing our content in Bahasa Indonesia and will be out in the Indonesian markets. In Malaysia and Indonesia, we’ll have it in the local languages. We’re dubbing in Asian languages to appeal to non-Hindi audiences. This is the basis for our international strategy.

With the platform clocking a fiscal fourth-quarter revenue that was greater than the combined revenue of its first nine months, what would be your targets now?

While the quarter results are encouraging, especially in terms of television and movies, we will be in a position to break even our ALT business in about 2.5 years from today. Our subscriber acquisition is increasing at a rapid pace. That is something we’re working towards. We’re targeting 8 million paying subscribers in three years.

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Gunn comes to BBDO India via DDB Mudra and Colenso BBDO.