Balaji Telefilms

Whoa! 4.2 Mn new subscribers for ALTBalaji in last three months: What’s the catch?

Balaji Telefilms
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In some unsurprising numbers, Ekta Kapoor run Balaji Telefilm’s OOT platform has seen a spur of growth in its viewership and hence subscription revenue.

ALTBalaji had added 5.17 million paid subscribers in Q3 FY19.  In  November 2018 to February 2019 period, subscribers added stood at 4.2 million.  Now, the count is a total of 13.1 million as of first week February this year. Monthly active users have doubled to 4.6 million from 2.3 million last year same time.

In the financials for Q3 FY19 which were recently released, revenue had taken an 8X jump to Rs 8.04 crore from Rs 1.14 crore in Q3 FY18. However, in the past nine months, the company’s total revenue was Rs 28.1 crore and Q2 FY19 had contributed the highest amount of Rs 14.28 crore.

The losses recorded a 2.25X leap to Rs 25.21 crore from Rs 11.6 crore in Q2 FY19, and a 2.8X jump from Rs 8.76 crore in Q3 FY18. Which basically means that in the last six months the financials of the company have seen a 43.7 per cent decrease in revenue, and the losses more than doubled.

The Inorganic Growth

Commenting on the same, an interesting tweet came up pointing out that the growth of ALTBalaji’s viewership in the past year was a result of bundling of ALTBalaji with Telcos like Jio TV or Vodafone Play.

The growth hence was inorganic and fluctuating, decreasing when the flavor of free streaming started to wash out due to the questionable content.

While the numbers in the tweet are more a metaphor than a studied figure, it does go on to support the numerical narrative of fluctuating numbers.

Last year, as Your Story reported, there was a trend where OTT platforms had tied up with large telecom enterprises to increase their viewership for a span of time long enough to make a person a regular.

In January 2018, Reliance Jio, being a stakeholder in its parent entity, had onboarded ALTBalaji on Jio TV increasing its reach to about then 160 million people, a number that is now 280 million.

The advantage of Vodafone is indirect as bigger OTTs like Netflix and Amazon Prime are provided free for a fixed time period whenever the customer uses a specific plan. The users then had to view this free content on Vodafone play that also syndicated content from smaller platforms like ALTBalaji, Eros Now, and Hooq.

The company had also partnered with Paytm, to give exclusive offers to subscribers who paid via the mobile application.

This widespread distribution through telco partnerships was bound to gather viewers and subscribers on the platform. ALTBalaji launched, two a month on average, premium shows with original content for these viewers.

The number stands at 33 as per a Medianama report. But when the viewers realised that the quality of this original content is unreliable and bizarre enough to not be able to watch it once the euphoria of free content dies, the numbers slipped.

Meanwhile, in the last quarter, the number of shows released was 6, and Apharan entered the most popular group. This show still wasn’t popular enough to increase the average watch time of the platform above 60 minutes, or increase the revenue.

The question that the tweet had raised of the nature of growth in subscribers, all the signs reflect an inorganic one.

Update: The period attributed to adding 4.2 million new subscribers for ALTBalaji has been correctly updated after a prompt from the company regarding the same.

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