ALTBalaji, the biggest Indian provider of original online content, is signing up paid users at the rate of 25,000-30,000 per day, said Nachiket Pantvaidya, the CEO of Balaji Telefilms, the company behind the app.
“We expect to have paid users of 10 mln by the end of the year,” Pantvaidya said in an interview with BTVI.
The app had a paid user base of 1.2 mln by the end of last financial year (March 30, 2018), and expects the number to reach 10 mln by the end of the current financial year (March 2019).
Barely three months into the new year, the paid user-base has already doubled, the CEO said.
ALTBalaji has been able to generate a lot of buzz in recent days thanks to some path-breaking and ‘bold’ shows of the type that is usually not seen on Indian TV.
The intimate and private nature of mobile phones makes it suitable to deliver shows that go beyond what can be accessed on public media like films and TV.
ALTBalaji’s Gandii Baat (Dirty Talk), which explores the raunchy side of village life in India, is among the biggest hits on Indian mobile content space.
Pantvaidya said about 40% of the people who sign up for ALTBalaji tend to renew their subscriptions and become ‘consistent’ paid users, while about 50% move in and out.
Part of the reason for the sharp jump in paid users in recent days could be the recent cuts by the company to its subscription rates.
At present, it is offering a full-year subscription for just Rs 300, compared to Rs 999 for Amazon Prime and around Rs 6,000 for Netflix.
Similarly, ALTBalaji offers a three-month subscription for Rs 100.
Pantvaidya ascribed the jump to its recently introduced shows.
It remains to be seen how far the app is able to retain its growth trajectory in light of recent content sharing deals with other apps.
In the last three months, ALTBalaji signed deals to share its content on apps such as JioTV and Airtel TV, which have crores of subscribers.
A consumer of Reliance Jio, for example, can access ALTBalaji content free of charge using the JioTV app.
India is seeing a rapid shift of content consumption from TV to mobile phones, disrupting the business models of cable and satellite companies.
However, channel owners — who produce most of the content — continue to remain relevant in the changed scenario as they are able to sell their content one way or the other.
Pantvaidya said the target for the app was to break even in the next 2 to 2.5 years.
The app, which was launched about 1.5 years ago, made a loss of Rs 100 cr in the first year, the CEO added.
“We expect the loss to come down to 60-70 cr in the second year,” he added.
Comparable numbers are not available for other apps that focus on original content, such as Netflix and Amazon.
ALTBalaji and Amazon are the two companies that have invested the most into producing content for their apps.
Other players like Jio, Airtel and Idea focus on licensing content from television and film producers.