OTT Spotlight: Inside ALTBalaji’s strategy to focus on Bharat consumers

With 35 percent quarter-on-quarter growth, OTT platform ALTBalaji is looking to attract the youth of Bharat, cater to family viewing, and growing on its own in the crowded digital entertainment space.
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In September 2018, ALT Balaji only had about 2.8 lakh paying subscribers. Founded in 2017, along with a slew of over-the-top (OTT) entertainment platforms including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, ALTBalaji took a detour to focus on “Bharat” instead of the urban metros. 

Around three years on, the Balaji Telefilms Ltd-run platform has sold 1.8 million subscriptions in the June-ended quarter of FY2022, compared to 0.9 million during the same quarter last year. Some credit for this growth goes to the accelerated online adoption among the masses during the pandemic. But the platform also zeroed down on this opportunity by adding six shows during the first quarter of FY22, taking the content library to a total of 86 shows. 

Since ALTBalaji is getting good traction, the entertainment platform has decided to slowly break away from their co-production deal with Zee Entertainment’s OTT platform Zee5, tells Divya Dixit, Senior Vice President, Revenue and Marketing, ALTBalaji in a conversation with YourStory.

The maker of shows including Gandi Baat, Broken But Beautiful, and Crashh had started producing all their shows in partnership with Zee5 to get more traction. However, they are now slowly moving away from this arrangement. 

One of ATLBalaji's successful shows

The marketing specialist, who helped scale Zee5 and Sony Entertainment Ltd, among others, gives constant data analysis and “going with the gut” for curating the content library. 

Divya delves deep into ALTBalaji’s strategies going further, why it is gradually moving away from Zee5, and how lower subscription fees clubbed with Bharat-focused shows is bringing volumes for the platform. 

Here are the edited excerpts:

YourStory [YS]: How did the pandemic accelerate ALTBalaji’s growth? 

Divya Dixit [DD]: The pandemic has changed habits for people. It has propelled digital adoption as TV channels were shut down and people, who were tired of just watching COVID-19 related news coverage, were also looking for entertainment from more digital sources. Hence, everyone is focusing on the content pipeline to make digital entertainment more available. 

ALTBalaji is growing just like other OTT platforms. But the growth will not be as exponential as it was earlier as the world slowly normalises and opens up. What will happen is that other entertainment spaces such as movie theatres will also start seeing traction. But the acceptance is much higher and OTT is becoming a part of life.

YS: How do you work on the lineups for ALTBalaji?

DD: Digital networks have an advantage over TV because you can analyse every show. You can understand how the show was performing on day one, who saw which episode, what was the average series consumption, where is the audience coming from, do they use wifi or data networks, as well as their age, gender, profile and other metrics. 

This analysis, which, unlike TV, is completely number-driven, helps us recalibrate our day-to-day marketing strategy. 

We work on the numbers from day one but we do let the campaigns truly settle in. By the end of the month, we look at them to see if the show has worked or not. We compare genre to genre, see what has worked, and then decide if we want to have more thriller, drama or youth-related shows. 

While many things are data-driven, commissioning a few things are not. There is also gut instinct when it comes to a few shows, looking at the concept and the star cast. Because in content, you still don’t know what is going to work and what is not. It is a bit ambiguous. But data is definitely a big part of our content strategy.

YS: What kind of genres are working really well for ALTBalaji? 

DD: Thriller, youth, and romance. Young romance works well because India is a young country and people do want to fall in love. There is also realism involved but not to the extent of being extremely realistic because people go through those things on a daily basis. Why would they want to watch it again and again? It is a combination of realism and escapism with real-life drama.  

As of June 30, we ended the quarter at 2.4 million active subscribers — people who are actively paying and consuming content. But to maintain 2.4 million subscribers, I will have to acquire many more users because there is also viewer churn, which depends on the content curation. Some people come on the platform but drop off. There is a lot of focus on reducing this rate. 

When I started the journey, there were 2.8 lakh subscribers in September 2018. Today, we have 2.8 million active paying subscribers. But this has only happened due to constantly addressing what is working, the churn, and acquiring subscribers at minimum cost, so that your ARPU comes to a certain cost. And this has been accelerated due to our business strategy and adoption of OTT as more and more people are cord-cutting and accepting digital platforms. Also, more consumers are willing to pay.

YS: Where do you see most of ALTBalaji’s growth coming from? 

DD: We are getting major volumes from outside metropolitan urban centres because there are more people consuming content. Our marketing strategy has changed from targetting metros to Bharat. Today, 56 percent of the audience come from those areas, while a year-and-a-half ago, 58 percent of the traffic came from metros. This is very encouraging for us as Bharat has volumes and more people. There are so many metros you can also reach out to.

We also have one of the lowest prices in the OTT category because we want people to adopt OTT. And the moment you increase the prices, you are chasing away Bharat. 

YS: Tell us about your co-production with Zee5.

DD: While we were co-producing almost every show with Zee5 earlier, we have now decided to limit our co-production with Zee5 to a limited number of shows. And the rest we are doing exclusively this year. Now ALT has a fairly stable business model, which is now growing exponentially. We are looking at about eight to 10 exclusive shows by the end of this financial year, and that is it. Earlier, there was an exclusive deal with Zee, and now, we see that ALT has a good amount of traction to grow on its own.

YS: What kind of content would you be producing in the coming months?

DD: We would try to capture the youth of Bharat and also have more inclusive shows, which the youngsters can watch with their families. As OTTs become mass entertainment platforms, there needs to be individual viewing and family viewing. We will be capturing the young audience as they still remain underserved. They are the future paying audience. We are also developing voice search technology to simplify the search on the app. 


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Edited by Kanishk Singh