Balaji Telefilms plans foray into video on demand to take on Netflix, Hotstar

Our content will drive viewers to the platform and we are looking for a breakeven in 2020 when we will have 4 million paid subscribers globally, says Sameer Nair.

Indians accessing video on demand through the Internet are likely to grow to 300 million by 2020

LT Digital Media Entertainment, a subsidiary of Balaji Telefilms, is foraying into the Over the Top (OTT) video on demand space currently dominated by big boys like Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime and may invest Rs.300 crore in this initiative.

Balaji Telefilms Ltd, which has been successfully creating content for television channels for over two decades and producing Hindi movies, will start services from either June or July this year by offering ‘premium, exclusive, original content’ through the OTT platform to resident and non-resident Indians. The service, branded as ALT Balaji, will be priced at Rs.60 per month in India and Rs.120 per month abroad.

“We have been quietly working on this project for a year now and are currently developing the content. An experienced team has been put in place and we are getting ready to launch ALT Balaji in June or July this year,” Sameer Nair, Group CEO, Balaji Telefilms Ltd told The Hindu.

“Ekta (Kapoor) has been a successful story teller and she has still more stories to tell which cannot be told via television. This is an opportunity for us to create this platform and go directly to consumers,” Mr Nair added. Bollywood star Jitendra is the Chairman and his daughter Ekta Kapoor is Joint Managing Director of Balaji Telefilms.

Currently about 100 million Indians access video on demand through the Internet and this market is likely to grow to between 200 million and 300 million by 2020, according to industry observers.

Nearly a dozen players including Indian broadcasters are eying this market. Balaji Telefilms has raised Rs 150 crore for this new venture and is eying a subscriber base of four million by 2020.

The company is planning to invest a total of Rs 300 crore in this project. Apart from the funds already raised from US University Pension Funds, the company will invest around Rs 70 crore from internal accruals and the rest would be mobilised later depending upon requirement.

Programmes in several languages namely, English, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Punjabi will be broadcast online and can be accessed through the ALT Balaji mobile app.

The company is betting big on the rising number of Indians accessing content through their smartphones and the relatively better bandwidth available across key markets in the country and abroad.

The main differentiator of ALT Balaji will be genuinely premium and exclusive content delivered through a subscription mode, Mr. Nair said. “It will not be an ad-driven venture. Our content will drive viewers to the platform and we are looking for a breakeven in 2020 when we will have 4 million paid subscribers globally.”

“Content will be at the centre of our offering. ALT Digital will tell new stories about youth, about professions in 20 to 26 episodes. There will be thrillers and content for adults and the youth. ALT Balaji will be everything Balaji is not,” Mr Nair said “Since TV is increasingly becoming the last century’s medium, we thought if Balaji has to genuinely grow as a business and become scalable, we have to go B2C and ALT Balaji emerged from that thinking.”

Since ALT Balaji will be a digital broadcaster, the company will not create all the content and is working with other creators and producers for the same.

[Source:- Thehindu]

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