Over the years, we've mastered the art of making content at one-third the price that our peers are spending: Divya Dixit, ALTBalaji
Divya Dixit, SVP, Marketing and Revenue, ALTBalajiALTBalaji
Divya Dixit, SVP - Marketing & Revenue, ALTBalaji talks to us about ALTBalaji’s journey so far
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Over the years, we've mastered the art of making content at one-third the price that our peers are spending: Divya Dixit, ALTBalaji

Divya Dixit, SVP - Marketing & Revenue, ALTBalaji talks to us about ALTBalaji’s journey so far
  • OTT had a watershed year in 2020 and the growth continued in 2021. Most reports are predicting that OTTs growth is here to stay.
  • Homegrown OTT platform ALTBalaji has been witnessing healthy growth on the back of its differentiated, localized content with a mass appeal.
  • We speak to Divya Dixit, SVP - Marketing & Revenue, ALTBalaji to take a look at ALTBalaji’s journey so far and the factors that have helped it woo audiences in a space that is increasingly becoming cluttered.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say 2020 was a watershed year for the Over-the-Top (OTT) industry. With people being stuck at home, yearning for fresh content with nowhere to go, OTT platforms came to the rescue. Most platforms witnessed an uptick in its uptake, with people spending more and more time on the platforms.

According to a recent report by FICCI and the Producers Guild of India, around 148 million Indians subscribed to online curated content platforms. Another report by RBSA Advisors also predicted that India's video OTT market may hit $12.5 billion by 2030 from around $1.5 billion in 2021 owing to access to better networks, smartphones, and digital connectivity.

The pandemic no doubt has given the industry a boost and most platforms are doing all they can to woo consumers. While competing with each other for producing and licensing better, more differentiated content, last year also made most of these platforms realize that consumers are wanting to watch local content and most platforms have been investing on producing local and regional content.

Within the OTT space in India, homegrown platform ALTBalaji has been witnessing a healthy growth in the past few years. The 4-year-old platform said recently that it is currently catering to an MAU base of over 10 million, having sold 2.9 million subscriptions in H1 alone. The platform is also seeing an audience engagement metrics of 83 minutes per day.

While witnessing good growth from non-metro cities in India, ALTBalaji also recently announced its partnership with Telenet to further its reach into Nepal.

We recently caught up with Divya Dixit, SVP - Marketing & Revenue, ALTBalaji to take a look at ALTBalaji’s journey so far and what has helped it woo audiences in a space that is increasingly becoming cluttered.

Excerpts:

Q) It's been over 4 years since the launch of ALTBalaji. Can you walk me through a few of the highlights?
ALTernative content being the core ethos of the group, ALTBalaji completed four glorious years of entertaining the audience with their non-stereotypical and out of the box storytelling. Currently catering to an MAU base of over 10 million, we have sold 2.9 million subscriptions in H1 alone, in this highly competitive Over-The-Top business. The platform also sees an audience engagement metrics of 83 minutes per day, with different genres catering to varied audiences. At ALTBalaji, we constantly sought innovation in content, technology as well as marketing.

With a library of around 90 original shows on the app and yet many more to be released, our content library has received accolades for its disruptive work and also seen the engagement time grow to over 83 minutes since the last quarter. As a result, there has been a steady upward growth for the past two years. Furthermore, being one of the most economically viable OTT platforms in the country, catering to almost all sections of society with a varied genre of shows, the various web series on the digital platform have received recognition from IMDB in terms of the ratings and numbers.

Our recent action-thriller web series Cartel with an IMDB rating of 8.2; Broken But Beautiful 3 with 8.7; Mai Hero Boll Raha Hu with 8.7; Apharan with 8.3, The Test Case with 8.4 and Bose with 8.8 are some of the shows which have received rave reviews and numbers. With the growth of technology, penetrative pricing and tailor-made content for audiences, ALTBalaji has seeped into the country's hinterlands. We worked quickly and identified the needs of the hour, leading to shows that made impact and kept people entertained right in their homes.

Q) Considering how people have been stuck at home since last year, they are still looking for entertainment and looking for it on OTT. How did you strengthen your content offering in the last 1.5 years to create an edge for yourself in the market?
While the pandemic added to the platform's growth, ALTBalaji's journey over the past four years has been ever-growing. Engagement time has exponentially increased and subscriptions continue to grow at a steady pace. Many variables decide viewership, ranging from the technology available to the preferred content to the time people had in hand. So fortunately, from the platform's perspective, there has been no dip in the number of viewers. Cities like Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata with a 2.19%, 1.32%, and 0.99% growth YOY are among the few major cities that have added to a significant expansion in ALTBalaji's subscribers in the past year. We have been quick to understand that content is the deciding factor to draw in more viewers. So, it was essential to personalize content as per the viewer's preferences, which we constantly work on. The most crucial part our strategy is our out-of-the-box narratives.

The content itself is tailor-made to attract larger audiences. We believe in creating shows that appeal across segments and narratives out of the box or unexplored. Recent shows like The Married Woman, Broken But Beautiful 3, and Cartel have been making headlines, and we are ecstatic with the response. Broken But Beautiful 3 set benchmarks with 180 million viewers and 220 million impressions with an innovative marketing strategy.

Other notable shows like Crashh, Mai Hero Boll Raha Hu, His Storyy and Cartel have given ALTBalaji an edge over most platforms.

Q) What sort of investments are you putting in on acquiring new content, producing them yourself?
OTT content consumption has witnessed a steady growth throughout and will continue to do so on its own. However, the lockdown period has scaled up the OTT content consumption game, and I believe now is the time for OTT platform players to sit back and rethink their strategy. ALTBalaji has always sworn by original content. The platform churns out unique content and gives a launchpad to many aspiring talents across the board.

Since our launch in 2017, we have ensured that our costs are restricted to Rs 150-Rs 160 crores per annum, out of which content cost has been around Rs 110 crore. Also, we aren't in the business of acquiring content. It is because we've mastered the art of making content at one-third the price that our peers are spending. In the year 2021 alone, the platform launched 20 original shows, and many more are in production

Q) What kind of growth did you witness last year after the lockdown? Have you been able to retain the growth?
The pandemic has scaled up the OTT content consumption game and ALTBalaji has seen a significant rise in engagement levels. ALTBalaji has seen a 15-20% growth in its viewership numbers; however, the lockdown increased subscribers from the Hindi heartlands. With the increase in appetite to consume our diverse library of originals and our shows catering to the mass audience, we have 59% of our viewership coming from the non-metros. While cities like Lucknow, Ludhiana, and Guwahati saw a huge increase of 189.84%, 106.50%, and 108.41%, respectively, Srinagar, Shimla, and Ranchi weren’t behind either, with an uprise of 103.81%, 103.05%, and 192.01%, as compared to ALTBalaji's viewership from these cities in 2020. 18% of our overall traction comes from the global audience, without any aggressive marketing. ALTBalaji established a precise positioning of 'OTT of the masses' with Hindi Colloquial Content for the Bharat audience and Hindi Speaking Diaspora.

Q) With multiplexes opening up, do you think the growth for your platform will stagnate? What is your customer retention strategy?
OTT has created new opportunities for content distribution across geographies. Viewers have adapted to the flexibility of time, convenience and choice of watching content.

2020 certainly acted as a catalyst in transforming the audiences' content consumption habits, converting fence-sitters and one-time visitors to subscribers, thereby increasing the overall subscription base and engaging more with the existing ones. Furthermore, the low cost of mobile network and affordable smartphones have revolutionized the OTT video streaming industry. In conclusion, surviving the market demands despite the opening of theatres is possible with affordable pricing, diverse content bouquet, buffer-free experience, and immersive innovations. Going out to mingle and unwind by watching movies is still a part of our culture and hence multiplexes will always remain important.

Q) From a marketing perspective, what are you doing differently to be top of mind in the consumer's mind? Going ahead, what will your key areas of focus be?
Our digital strategy covers all the bases when it comes to youth-friendly platforms. We have realized that influencer engagement is the way to go in this time & age. Our romantic series Broken But Beautiful 3 have been picked up as a case study since the show achieved 180 million viewers with 220 million impressions through our marketing campaign. We also partnered with short format apps for youth oriented UGC, multiple digital payment gateways for our various youth-centric brands to ensure the audience has the smoothest experience possible. In 2020 alone, ALTBalaji has partnered with almost 25-30 brands for each of our show release that enabled incredible growth for both parties. We have a robust analytics platform with a live dashboard that provides us information on views and engagement along with the socio-economic and demographics of our viewers to generate behavioural consumption patterns to sharpen our retention strategy.

What works optimally for us is to focus on consumer segmentation, mapping audience behaviour, focused customer retention, optimizing customer life cycle, and progressive strategies for onboarding new consumer segments; who are new to the internet or women in smaller markets, etc. Besides Instagram and Twitter, we also actively use WhatsApp to engage with our users. To further penetrate the Hindi heartlands, we will simplify our UI/UX by bringing in voice search, one button click registration, and easy payment modules in retail and digital. We foresee that we can target growth in the youth segment, over and above male and female target audience aged between 20-40 years. Vocal for local is sure to make it big in 2021. Gamification and Virtual reality, along with social commerce, will be the next big consumer engagement drivers on OTT.

Q) Since digitization has sped up since the lockdown, how are bringing in new users? How are you reaching out to audiences deeper in the country who are also hungry for good content?
Massification of content has been our goal right from the very beginning, and that shall see us lay further impetus towards expanding our content library. The various genres that we dabble into have massive scope for OTT players to explore the segment and expand their footprint by tapping into Tier II and Tier III markets. In parallel, we are continuously improving our UI/UX to ensure easier subscription, voice search, vertical video formats and a more effortless viewing experience for our audiences. The data analytics combined with targeted marketing also allows us to acquire customers lower than the industry standards. We also intend to extensively leverage data for predication analysis on the shows as the library expands, which feeds back into the content teams, enabling them to take sharper decisions on content creation

Q) How are you making the platform more user-friendly, technologically more stable to be on the same level as a few of the global OTT players?
The entry of new players in the OTT landscape or the rising influence of an existing player does not bother us. We welcome competition. It expands the consumer base and brings in new business opportunities and strategies. ALTBalaji also tied up with Amazon Pay and MobiKwik, two of the most trusted and convenient payment options for online transactions making the app more user-friendly, especially at payment and checkout. The tie-up with Amazon Pay enabled the subscribers to win up to Rs 50/- cashback while MobiKwik gave subscribers up to 10% cashback, credited to the users' wallets in under 24 hours. With these offers, subscribers will have no difficulty switching over to these safer and quicker, one-click transaction options for all future purchases.

A buffer-free experience and immersive innovations are constantly worked upon. To further penetrate the Hindi heartlands, simplifying our UI/UX further, by bringing in voice search, one button click registration, as well as simpler payment modules in retail and digital is what we will be looking to innovate constantly