Balaji’s Alt Digital to offer paid exclusive original content

Balaji Telefilms, the film and television production house, led by media veteran Samir Nair, is yet another Indian media entity to take the plunge in the over-the-top (OTT) platform arena. Announced last year, the exclusive digital platform, to be called Alt Digital, is headed by Nachiket Pantvaidya, former business head at Sony Pictures Entertainment’s (earlier called Multi Screen Media India) Sony Entertainment Television.

Currently, the OTT space in India has seen a shake up with the entry of American giant Netflix. While it was known that the content producer and distributor will enter India eventually, CEO Reed Hastings surprised everyone when he announced a global expansion into 130 new markets, including India at CES 2016 on Wednesday.

Pantvaidya, however, is unfazed by this announcement, and even feels it could actually do a lot of good. “Our plans to launch Alt Digital have been in motion since last year. We are going to launch with some strong propositions for the digital content consumer. We will launch with exclusive original content and be practically ad-free from the start. As a part of Balaji, we have the experience and competence to produce relevant content for our TG and we will use that legacy to our advantage,” he says.

The content produced will be for a specific bracket of people. Alt Digital has no intentions of targeting all the internet video users. Industry estimates peg the number of internet users who have access to seamless broadband/WiFi and who transact via Netbanking / credit card online at close to 70 million. Pantvaidya and team will probably target this group of people.

“There is a clear need gap in the industry. Those who want to watch high quality English/international content have access to it through English entertainment channels and now Netflix. On the other hand, there are those who are happy watching the GEC (general entertainment channel) content on TV. In between lie the people we want to target. These are people who want to watch out of the box, edgy Indian content,” he adds.

A key component in this strategy is the volume of content available on the platform. While he remained mum on exactly what kind of content and how many shows the platform will launch with, he informed that it will be a large scale. For this, a lot of the production has been outsourced. Pantvaidya reveals that to achieve the kind of volume scale Alt intends to at the start, it was imperative that almost 50% of the content production is outsourced.

Apart from content, pricing will be a key in the business strategy for Alt. Once again, Pantvaidya refused to divulge exact details of the pricing strategy, but revealed that he and his team are working on a method. “The way we see it, we need to command a part of the viewers’ monthly entertainment budget. This percentage has to be less than 50% in order to attract subscription,” he reveals. He does however concede that if Netflix’s current pricing (starting at Rs 500 a month) does stick, the American giant may have just opened the gates for Indian players to up the pricing bracket as well.