The production house has carved out a separate entity, ALT Entertainment, to make films that cater to younger audiences.
Balaji Telefilms has entertained viewers with some of the most puritan characters on Indian television. With Love Sex aur Dhokha (LSD), though, the production house — which made its mark as the leading fiction content provider for family audiences over the last decade — has begun focussing on younger audiences, too. It’s separate brand christened ALT Entertainment will do the same with small-budget films.
The production house aims for a marked distinction in the brand image of Balaji Telefilms and ALT Entertainment. While Balaji Telefilms will cater to family audiences with its films, TV content and new-media offerings, ALT Entertainment will target young adults.
“Under the Balaji brand, we will make mid-to-big budget films like our forthcoming offering Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. Balaji would continue with the bread-and-butter soaps for the top general entertainment channels. The new media content (for internet and mobile) under the Balaji brand will also target family audiences, like we launched devotional songs for downloading during Ganesh Chaturthi in Mumbai,” says Puneet Kinra, Balaji’s chief executive officer.
Under the ALT Entertainment brand, Balaji Telefilms will be making films for younger audiences, which will be small-budget films like LSD and Shorr (which will release this September.) “The TV content under the ALT entertainment brand will be for youth channels like MTV, UTV Bindass and Channel V. The new-media offerings under ALT will also be different. For instance, we recently released audio-sodes of a detective series on mobile phone,” adds Kinra.
Balaji tasted success with the movie LSD from the ALT Entertainment banner in March this year. It was a film on a bold subject and highlighted an issue like honour killing. “While TV content will remain the staple for us, over the next 24 months we will change the share of our revenue drivers. While the topline contribution of TV content will remain at a healthy 65 per cent, that from films and new media will go up to 35 per cent,” says Kinra. At present, a major part of the company’s revenue comes from TV content production.
The move to cater to young adults seems to have somewhat eased the pain the production house went through in the last two years. From a quagmire with Star Plus which dropped Balaji’s most popular show on air, Kyunki Saas bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, to flat programming hours and shows with high production costs but low number of viewers, the production house had a tough time. Reflecting the bad times Balaji’s net profit dipped from Rs 87.38 crore in 2007-08 to Rs 26.32 crore the following year, and further to Rs 15.19 crore last financial year.
However, the success of LSD has brought some cheer to Balaji as the film’s revenues will help in the April-June quarter of this financial year. “The cost of the film and the revenues from the first 12 days (the film released on March 19 and books closed on March 31) was reflected in our balance sheet. The earnings from the film will positively impact our April-June quarter,” Kinra says.
According to industry estimates, LSD was made at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore and did business worth Rs 9 crore. With the issues with Star India now sorted out and a slate of films over the next six months, Balaji Telefilms looks poised to re-enter the high-growth cycle.
Meanwhile, Balaji’s free online classified website, Hoonur.com, which gives people from the entertainment, television, media and advertising sectors to promote and share their services, gets around 1,000 profiles per week. With a good number of users, industry watchers say Balaji might launch a media school for aspiring actors, directors and other technicians. “Hoonur.com is in beta phase now, but we should be able to monetise it in the next 18 months. There has been a proposal for a media school and we are looking into it,” says Kinra.