“Balaji Telefilms has been in the content business for a long time. They pretty much disrupted the TV market back in 2000. Now we have something really exciting brewing here. I personally hate the word disruption, but that’s the plan which got me to say yes. Creating a successful platform for one of India’s largest content producers is a challenge which I’m looking forward to,” informed Ekalavya Bhattacharya who recently joined ALT Digital as Chief Strategy Officer.
ALT Digital Media, a specialised digital content business wing of Balaji Telefilms was launched August last year. At its launch, a press release stated – “The company hopes to monetise the potential of on-demand entertainment on digital platforms by catering to content across mobiles, computers, tablets, smart TVs and game stations.”
ALT Digital Media plans to initially develop content in Hindi and English, and later in other regional languages, all of which will be available on subscription-based and premium ad-supported models to domestic and global Indian audiences. In addition to developing its own platform, ALT is also seeking associations with technology and video distribution platforms.
A business model that most TV channels have started exploring after creating presence on YouTube. “For Balaji Telefilms, with its distinct strengths, it is the logical next step to create the next generation of original, exciting fiction content. This foray enables Balaji to not only create and own content IP, but to also build its own consumer base of audiences who seek original content and, in the process, build a strong and valuable B2C brand,” added Sameer Nair, group CEO, Balaji Telefilms.
Earlier this month ALT found its guy who would steer the ship of its digital content business wing – Ekalavya Bhattacharya, ex MTV India Digital Head. More than five years at MTV, Ekalavya has executed some of the popular digital only shows for the channel. That’s why he’s a prized catch for ALT Digital Media.
“Ekalavya comes with very strong pedigree having done some amazing work at MTV in building their digital business. We believe his disruptive attitude and business smarts are a wonderful addition to the eclectic diversity in the fast growing ALT Digital Team,” Sameer added.
Ekalavya and I spoke over emails on his new move, priorities as a Chief Strategy Officer, visual content in 2016 and more. Listed below are the slightly edited email conversations with him:
Prasant Naidu: Close to 5 years with MTV India, right time to move on after executing a bunch of web shows for the channel.
Ekalavya Bhattacharya: Working at MTV was a great experience. 5 years back we were truly the pioneers of branded content and original web content in India. By the time I left, digital was pretty much in the DNA of everything at MTV. Personally, I wanted to do a lot more and I guess the time was right.
What are your immediate priorities and challenge as a Chief Strategy Officer?
Primary priority and challenge currently is to gear up for a fantastic launch.
Alternate content for alternate screens, how do you see visual content evolving in the present year?
I’ve been talking about this for years. Evolution has been on for the last decade or even more and now is the time that people can visibly notice it. Content consumption patterns are changing and the convenience of consumption is what is driving this evolution. Even content creation is evolving.
Earlier it was all about the gut, now we are seeing a hybrid of gut + data + science. Geographically-agnostic content – That’s one thing I’m personally really bullish about.
Additionally, will people pay for content? I’ll do a guest-post on that soon.
Finally, we are seeing most TV channels are building their own content platforms rather than depending on YouTube. Your thoughts on how do you see this move.
At the end of the day, apart from entertaining consumers, it is important to realize that it is about business. So everyone’s YouTube strategy will be based on their respective business strategy and economics. There is no denying the power and reach of YouTube, but there has always been a question mark on earnings. This is something I’d written nearly two and a half years back and the math still holds true.
When YouTube Red enters the Indian market, I’m sure we’ll see a lot of hybrid business models. Exciting times indeed for everyone in the ecosystem. For marketers it is going to be challenging too. A lot of brands are now setting up internal content marketing teams and I’m sure they are readying themselves for the shift in consumption patterns.