Digital subscribers in India are expected to increase to about 1.1 billion in 2030 from 528 million in 2018, according to KPMG India Pvt. Streaming sales in Asia’s third-biggest economy are estimated to more than triple to Rs 62,100 crore ($8.7 billion) in the five years to March 2024, according to a report the accounting firm published last month.
While much smaller than Netflix, Balaji is about 25% owned by Reliance Industries Ltd, the giant conglomerate controlled by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. And India’s lower and middle income digital consumers prefer regional content, according to KPMG, which may favour local providers with that demographic.
“I think one has to cater to either the classes or the masses; trying to have both the pies will lead to a confused strategy and may not work well,” said Pantvaidya, who serves as chief operating officer at Balaji Telefilms in addition to running ALT Digital.
While Netflix and other major players cater primarily to urban subscribers with high-cost global productions, ALT Digital’s ALTBalaji service is focused mainly on Hindi-language shows, targeting people between 20 and 40 years old who live in India’s 30 largest cities. Netflix has four monthly plans in India ranging from Rs 199 to Rs 799. ALTBalaji offers a three-month subscription for Rs 100 and a 12-month plan for Rs 300.
ALTBalaji expects its revenue to nearly double this fiscal year to about Rs 80 crore. Profitability should be helped by the fact that Balaji Telefilms will fund most of its planned production expenses. ALTBalaji and its partner Zee5, an online-streaming platform of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, aim to spend about Rs 250 crore over the next two years.
“We are committed to providing content for the masses, and only 5% of what we want to produce will be super-premium shows with an expensive star cast,” Pantvaidya said.