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Balaji's Alt Digital to offer exclusive original content

Says Netflix no threat; to target people interested in out-of-the-box, edgy Indian content

Urvi Malvania  |  Mumbai 

Digital video platforms get ready for Netflix's India foray

Balaji Telefilms Ltd, the film and television production house led by media veteran Samir Nair, is yet another Indian media entity taking the plunge into the over-the-top (OTT) space.

Announced last year, the exclusive digital platform, Alt Digital, is headed by Nachiket Pantvaidya, former business head at Sony Pictures Entertainment’s (formerly Multi Screen Media India) Sony Entertainment Television.

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 would eventually enter India, CEO Reed Hastings surprised everyone when he announced a global expansion into 130 new markets, including India, at CES 2016 on Wednesday.

Pantvaidya, though, is unfazed by this announcement. He 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 (target group) and we will use that legacy to our advantage.”

The content produced will be for a specific bracket of people. Alt Digital has no intention of targeting all the internet video users out there. Industry estimates peg the number of internet users who have access to seamless broadband/Wi-Fi 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 remains mum on exactly what kind of content and how many shows the platform will launch, he says it will be on a large scale. For this, a lot of the production has been outsourced.

Apart from content, pricing will be a key issue in the business strategy for Alt. Pantvaidya, however, refuses to divulge the exact details of the pricing strategy, but says 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 per cent in order to attract subscription.”

He concedes that if Netflix’s current pricing (starting at Rs 500 a month) does stick, the US giant might have just opened the gates for Indian players to up the pricing bracket as well.

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First Published: Sat, January 09 2016. 00:30 IST