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Understanding ALTBalaji's 'under 35 viewers' with Divya Dixit

80 per cent of ALTBalaji’s current viewers are less than 35 years of age

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As ALTBalaji senior vice-president - marketing and revenue, Divya Dixit has played a pivotal role in driving the company’s vision in the fast-growing and dynamic OTT sector. She carries over two decades of experience in business, marketing and brand building across the digital, OTT, broadcast, telecom, music, and retail industries. Before joining ALTBalaji in 2018, she was with ZEE5 where she conceptualised and developed the brand ‘ZEE5 ‘and ‘ZEE5 Originals’, as well as launched the platform and multiple original shows.

At ALTBalaji, Dixit looks after marketing budgets and recovery via direct subscription revenue. She is also responsible for the overall growth of the platform, program scheduling, and analytics as well. Under her leadership, ALTBalaji has been one of the top three grossing OTT apps, having doubled its direct revenue YOY in the years 2018-19 and 2019-2020.

On Tuesday, Balaji Telefilms announced its financial results for AMJ 2021, as per which ALTBalaji sold a total of 1.8m subs, up 35 per cent QoQ. Its direct subscription revenues stood at Rs 17cr. Boasting a current active subscriber base of 2.4m (excluding subscribers on partner apps), AltBalaji continues to drive growth for the Company.

Interestingly the platform is also turning younger everyday with 80 per cent of the current viewers being less than 35 years of age. The brand has registered a 100 per cent YoY growth with respect to the same, especially in the hinterland markets. According to Counterpoint Research’s Survey, AltBalaji’s 25-35 audience accounted for 59 per cent of its users in 2019. The development is significant because ultimately it is this age group which drives the OTT market.

Indiantelevision.com’s Ashee Sharma got into a freewheeling conversation with ALTBalaji, senior VP - marketing and revenue, Divya Dixit to understand this under-35 viewer base and more.

Edited Excerpts

On ALTBalaji’s young viewer base and the value it holds for the brand

Youth programming continues to be our focus at ALTBalaji. We are striving constantly to keep the stories as young, inclusive, and as vibrant as possible in the hope of making a difference to the future of society. Some of our top viewed shows in this category have been Broken But Beautiful Season 3, Puncch Beat, Dev DD, Crashh, Dark7white, and LSD.

We are here to make disruptive content that breaks stereotypes and is relatable to New India, and this development is significant for us because it implies that our brand has been able to crack the code for the youth and those young at heart. It has made ALTBalaji the benchmark for other OTT platforms. We expect a steady surge in viewership, especially among the 18-35 year olds who are leading the binge-watching trend today.

On the difference between this audience and the rest in terms of consumer behaviour

Most of OTT consumption happens with viewers under the age of 35 years who are far more tech-savvy, however also most often the busiest. Shorter attention spans seem to be a universal thing with this demographic unless their interest is piqued. So it becomes necessary for us to create content that catches the viewers' attention right from the get-go. Nowadays, content is all over the internet, and with the intense competition, cracking the code to a viewer's interest is most important. We believe we have been successful in this regard. Our engagement metrics have gone up from 48 minutes a day in FY18-19 to 83 minutes currently and the audience comprises 21.29 per cent women, with men dominating at 78.71 per cent. 

On the content and marketing strategy for the <35 yrs TG

At ALTBalaji, digital marketing is an important element of the marketing mix. Associating with like-minded brands, engagement across short format apps, using actors’ social media reach, and activities with youth influencers for content promotion, have been our primary approaches.  We have a robust analytics platform with a live dashboard that provides us information on views and engagement, as well as the demographic details of our subscribers. This helps us in understanding behavioural consumption patterns, and drives our content and marketing strategies.

The youth has most definitely made a shift towards OTT platforms over traditional means of entertainment. However, the debate over their preference for movies or shows is still on. ALTBalaji has noticed the people under 35 lean in favour of shows that break stereotypes and have unique narratives, and so we continue to launch shows across genres such as thriller, crime, romance, and drama, all the while maintaining our focus on out-of-the-box story ideas.

Moreover, our content is tailor-made to attract larger audiences. Currently, in India, the most widely spoken language among approximately 70 per cent of the population is Hindi which has been the priority for ALTBalaji. 95 per cent of our content is Hindi originals, although various other shows have been dubbed to ensure that the content is not limited to the Hindi-speaking populace. . Our recent shows like Broken But Beautiful, Mai Hero Boll Raha Hu, His Storyy, and The Married Woman have given us a massive surge in viewership. 

On the thought process behind targeting this age-group 

This age group is the one that sparks maximum creativity among writers and content creators, and that’s because they have a voracious appetite for unique narratives. Also, it made sense to cater to an audience that is well-versed with technology, willing to experiment and pay upfront for content. The phenomenon of Binge-watching actually started them, and so, it was only reasonable for us to work with the low hanging fruit first. We saw a huge increase in subscriptions, with growth percentages doubling in multiple cities including Lucknow, Rohtak, Ludhiana, Srinagar, Guwahati, Shimla, and Ranchi, to name a few.

On the impact on advertising revenue, and if attracted similar brands to the platform - brands that catered to younger audiences.

In 2020 alone, ALTBalaji has partnered with almost 25-30 brands for various shows. Our marketing strategy includes brand collaborations as it helps us to reach out to a larger audience. The partnerships have also kept our existing users incredibly engaged with all the collaborated offers they receive. 

Young brands including Imagicaa, Pipo Popcorn, My Imagine Store, Growfitter, Ferns N Petals, and Ixigo have recently partnered with us for our youth drama Puncch Beat 2. These associations include value-added services to our existing customers. For instance, Ferns and Petals, our official gifting partners for Puncch Beat 2, provided a 20 per cent discount coupon to our viewers on their next billing. Ixigo is associated with us as the travel partner allowing 20 per cent off exclusively for ALTBalaji subscribers. The offering is based on the insight that the youth love discovering the world. Growfitter, the fitness partner for our recent shows, provided free one-month Growfitter Premium Subscription to the ‘fitness-conscious’ contest winners. In addition, brands like Imagicaa, Pipo Popcorn, and My Imagine store have been roped in as entertainment, snack, and gadget partners, respectively, thus encouraging the new audience to get on board.

On the evolution of the business and subscription models of ALTBalaji

Brands are increasingly starting to be aware of the growing popularity of OTT. Associating with the right brands would be a win-win for both partners by gaining visibility among the right target audience through in-show integrations and surround marketing. In 2020 alone, revenue from mobile internet advertising in India was Rs 7331 Cr and is predicted to rise to Rs 22,350 Cr in the next five years, increasing at a 25.4 per cent CAGR as per PwC's Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2021-2025. Utilising this fast-paced growth to the maximum potential will prove highly lucrative to businesses. However, the revenue model is still evolving. Constant innovation and timing are both the key and the challenge in this sphere. Getting it right could prove extremely fruitful for both players in the partnership.

Talking of subscription models, there is a consumer out there for every content choice. AVOD/SVOD/TVOD are business models and the only choice the consumer has to make is if he/she wants an ad free experience or is comfortable with ads interrupting the viewing experience. As far as TVOD goes, it’s yet to see some traction in India as OTT platforms are still priced very economically. However, in developed countries where SVOD is largely the order of the day, TVOD as sampling for a particular piece of content works very well.   

I believe in the long term SVOD is a more sustainable model, and the good news is that more and more audiences are willing to pay for content which has moved the SVOD needle up from 5 per cent, three years ago to almost 25 per cent currently. Our subscription model is priced at INR 300 annually while our quarterly plan costs 100, and half-yearly is set at 180. This is not just for youth but for democratisation of content in the country.

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