ALTBalaji's Sethi reaffirms faith in originals


MUMBAI: Among the plethora of over-the-top (OTT) players that sprung up in the Indian market, we have Balaji Telefilms’ ALTBalaji, which is striving to understand content through the eyes of its customers. The platform takes customer feedback seriously to predict which content will work.

After gaining positive audience reactions for Bose: Dead/Alive, Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain and Haq Se, the platform may return with Haq Se season 2 as ALTBalaji CMO Manav Sethi confirmed in an interaction with Indiantelevision.com.

With smartphones personalising everything, content is not left out of this change. Leveraging the shift in viewing patterns, OTT platforms are not only coming up with originals but also content of different genres to cater to every segment of the audience. According to a Deloitte report, Indian players have set aside about Rs 3300 crore for original content production.

Despite the emphasis on original content by national as well as international players, a recently published report said that only 20 per cent of users in the US watched originals on Netflix. The other 80 per cent predominantly saw shows such as Breaking Bad, The Office, and Grey's Anatomy. In that context, when asked if OTT platforms’ dependence on originals was overstated, Sethi reiterated the importance of originals for ALTBalaji.

While ALTBalaji’s big hits-Bose:Dead / Alive, Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain, Haq Se, The Test Case, Ragini MMS Returns-were acclaimed by viewers, a variety of audiences tuned in. Some of the shows were adored by metro cities while some enjoyed popularity in small towns. According to estimates, OTT users are likely to exceed 355 million by 2020, faster if internet services improve.

“There are certain stories that the small towns have evolved to appreciate. Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain, Karrle Tu Bhi Mohabbat, those shows did very well in small towns. There were actors from TV and household stories, which audiences could relate to,” Sethi said.

Right now, the platform is bursting at the seams with 50 shows from various genres such as comedy and drama, each at different stages of execution. Many hit shows are being brought back for the second season among which Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain and Dev DD have already been announced.

Indians can’t seem to get enough of drama with it being the favourite choice on ALTBalaji, too. A new genre combining horror and sex, which Sethi refers to as horrex, is the largest growing genre consumed by ALTBalaji consumers.

The company is very frugal when it comes to marketing spends. “Our marketing strategy has been very out in the open. We spend most of the money on digital. We don’t believe in spending irrationally and in an exaggerating manner. We are focusing on acquiring the viewers and the subscribers,” Sethi said.

“We keep focusing on content and analytics. We’re taking cognisance of all the signals our consumers give such as whether they like our shows, don’t like them, where the major dropouts are happening or which episode saw largest number of dropouts,” he added.

Ever since launch, ALTBalaji has focussed on originals while competitors have dived into areas like sports and catch-up. International competitor Netflix has earmarked $6 billion for original and licenced content with a significant chunk for India. Amazon is spending $300 million in India for acquiring Bollywood movies and originals.

While the international players are entering the market with a high amount of investment, the company wants to remain very cautious about its expenditure and level-headed about its content.

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