Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, India's over-the-top streaming (OTT) market continues to be one of the fastest-growing markets in the world. Although dominated by international players such as Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar and Netflix, home-growth OTT player AltBalaji too has witnessed exponential growth in its viewership in under a year.
Like Disney Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Netflix and some other OTT platforms, ALTBalaji is also a subscription VOD platform but with no telecom tie-ups. "All our subscribers have paid for their subscriptions. We cater to an active subscriber base of 2.1 million, and our cumulative subscribers stand at over 35 million. As per our Q3 FY21 results, 22,000 was the average number of subscribers that were getting added every day in Q3FY21", says Divya Dixit, Senior Vice President - Marketing & Revenue at ALTBalaji.
According to the company, the engagement metrics since last year have risen from 60 minutes in Q3 FY21 to 83 minutes now, which earlier had jumped 2x in Q2FY21 along with a marginal uptick in international subscriptions. "With the increase in appetite to consume our unique offering of Hindi originals, we are currently witnessing a 15-20% surge in viewership and an increase in the time spent consuming our content across urban and tier 2, 3 audiences," adds Dixit.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of ALTBalaji's audience came from the metros. However, the lockdown saw an uptick in subscribers from the Hindi heartlands. Around 59 per cent viewership came from non-metros, while metros saw 41 per cent. Ranchi, Srinagar, Guwahati, Ludhiana, and Rohtak were the top 5 cities in non-metro, while Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Jaipur, Lucknow are the top 5 performing metro and mini metro cities for ALTBalaji.
"In 2021, cities like Lucknow, Ludhiana, and Guwahati saw a huge increase in subscriptions, with growth percentages doubling viz. 189.84 per cent, 106.50 per cent, and 108.41 per cent, respectively. Srinagar, Shimla, and Ranchi weren't behind either, with an uptick of 103.81 per cent, 103.05 per cent, and 192.01 per cent, as compared to our viewership from these cities in 2020," avers Dixit.
ALTBalaji has a library of 79 Hindi originals across genres that cater to all kinds of audiences. The shows are also being dubbed in regional languages like Tamil, Telugu & Malayalam, and international languages like Arabic and Bhasa, which has helped the OTT player with consumer engagement.
ALTBalaji started in 2017 and has recorded revenues of Rs 6.83 crore in FY 18; Rs 41.87 crore in FY 19; and Rs 77.7 crore in FY 20. "We hope to be a Rs 150 crore entity by the end of this year with at least 100 original shows. Since our inception in 2017, we have made sure that our costs are restricted to Rs 150-Rs 160 crore per annum, out of which content cost has been around Rs 110 crore," says Dixit.
Having mastered the art of making content at one-third of the amount that peers are spending, and Balaji's production house's legacy and backing has helped ALTBalaji in creating original shows without spending exorbitant amounts.
ALTBalaji offers a three-month subscription deal for Rs 100 and a 12-month plan for Rs 300, which is one of the most affordable options available in the market. ALTBalaji has a partnership with two payment gateways - MobiKwik and Paytm to provide some cashback offers.
"Moreover, our association with PayPoint India helps us connect with the rural and semi-rural markets, where many viewers require digital assistance and offline subscription payment options. Using these gateways and retail options, consumers can now enjoy quick and easy checkouts with faster cashback when they subscribe to our platform," adds Dixit.
According to a report by PwC, the over-the-top market is set to grow at a rate of 22 per cent to reach Rs 12,000 crore in the next four years. The soon-to-arrive 5G networks will only work as a shot in the arm for OTT platforms to scale greater heights.
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