What are the consumer insights that have gone into creating the over-the-top (OTT) platform ALTBalaji?
Our research shows the audience in urban as well as rural areas show equal propensity to consume video content. The consumption pattern and content preferences are also quite similar. The viewer for Hindi fiction and regional language content is more or less the same. This goes to show that video spread on the internet is not a geographic phenomenon but psychographic phenomenon. In between there are always going to be cases where we will have some people in large cities who will not be big on the internet and there will be some in rural areas who are big on it.
As a media house, how different is your approach towards content creation for the digital media as compared to TV?
The ecosystem that you need for creating content for an OTT platform is very different from that of TV. The creative approach towards writing and the economics of mounting a 10-episode limited series is different as opposed to putting together 200 episodes for a fiction show. The consumer target groups on the digital medium are very different than the audience on TV which caters to the masses — it is a one-size-fits-all audience, whereas the digital medium is an agglomeration of different urban masses. And hence on the digital platform, we have a wider range of storytelling encompassing various digital communities.
What about the economics of business on the digital media? How does it compare with the costs and returns offered by TV?
The economies of scale that the TV offers does not hold true for the digital media. What this means is that to provide a differentiated visual look, we need to have a larger non-set component for digital. And hence, we are shooting more outdoor on real locations in case of digital. The limited nature of series on the digital media also calls for talent diversity. Our digital platform has got on board big creative names like Nagesh Kuknoor, Nimrat Kaur and Atul Kulkarni. With the talent of this kind on board your cost goes up. The monetisation model also changes the moment you start doing less number of episodes as compared to serialised shows on TV.
What is your monetisation model?
We are a purely subscription video on demand (SVoD) offering in the OTT space. The first five episodes of our shows are free to watch. They are available on YouTube and Facebook. The subscription fee for ALTBalaji is ~300 for a year. Basically, viewers just need to pay ~1 per day to access the content on our platform.
Without advertising, is this low fee subscription-led model sustainable?
Our consumer research indicates that charging ~1 per day is the blind spot for us. Such pricing is a sort of thumb rule to follow in order to make exclusive content available to viewers and getting them hooked to our offerings.
ALTBalaji is a late-entrant in the market. How do you plan to compete with incumbents who command loyal viewership?
We do not think that we are at a disadvantage in the market. We are the only platform which is offering exclusive fiction content to audience. Our content is not replicable and is not available on other platforms. We have got 250 hours of original content in a year and none of our competitors is doing that kind of numbers.
Our proposition is to provide refreshing content. We have more volume on our side. The total market size for original content is not more than 75 hours. In effect, we are doubling the market size. At the same time, we are not only offering viewers Hindi content, but we are also going ahead with original fiction content in regional languages such as Punjabi, Bangla and Tamil. We are going to be big on original digital language production.
How do you plan to compete on fictionled content, when competitors are putting money behind movies and sports too?
We have no plans of getting into sports content or movies other than those under Balaji production. Movies, for instance, are just filler content. If the movies are exclusive then it works but if they are available on TV you cannot sustain the subscription model. Our basic proposition is to get great fiction content out. The focus is on bringing out stories which are exclusively made for the digital audience. We are targeting urban masses across 50 or 60 cities reaching out to about 75 million people. They are our core audience. We are also catering to the diaspora which has a keen interest in Hindi fiction. We are truly a global B2C (business-to-consumer) player. Importantly, regional language content offers huge opportunity as well. It attracts diaspora audience across South Asia. For example, content in Bengali attracts Bangladeshis. Similarly, Punjabi shows attract Punjabi-speaking Pakistanis. How do you plan to cultivate loyal digital viewership? Consumers need to be habituated to the content on offer on an OTT platform. The audience on digital media is looking for variety and good quality content. So, here the natural assumption is that the digital content has to be edgy. – Business Standard