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Balaji Telefilms’ ALTBalaji rebranded to ALT amid funds crisis

Balaji Telefilms’ streaming service ALTBalaji has rebranded to ALTT amid a funding crisis and stagnant subscriber growth.

The company, which announced in February that promoters Ektaa and Shobha Kapoor have stepped down, is exploring options to get fresh investments, people tracking the company said, requesting anonymity.

A former executive of ALTT said the Kapoors quit to avoid legal hassles for airing adult-themed shows like Gandii Baat, XXX and Ragini MMS. “They clearly did not want to be seen as directly associated with that kind of content.” During the initial years, the app released some ambitious shows such as The Test Case featuring Nimrat Kaur, and Rajkummar Rao’s Bose: Dead-Alive, but for now, adult content is the clear focus, the person said.

To continue with its operations at lower costs, ALTT has hired executives from Ullu, a rival platform known for adult content, while Balaji Telefilms is focusing on creating content for other platforms.

“There is a lot of pressure from shareholders because the platform hasn’t seen any traction of late. It is now trying to revert to a pure content production model—making films and shows for other services, such as Netflix, as it still has the expertise,” said a former Balaji content producer, on condition of anonymity. For instance, Balaji Motion Pictures co-produced a comedy-drama, Kathal, which will be streaming on Netflix this month.

ALTT plans to back low-cost adult content and has roped in Vivek Koka as chief business officer. Earlier, Koka led Atrangii TV, Atrangii App and Sports, as the chief business officer.

Atrangii and Ullu are owned by Vibhu Agarwal.

“Considering that it was no longer showcasing exclusive content but tied up with ZEE5 and MX Player people raised the red flag,” the person said.

In 2017, Reliance Industries acquired a 24.92% stake in Balaji Telefilms for ₹413.28 crore, and it was assumed that most content will also run on Reliance-owned OTT apps.

However, Koka said the focus is not on adult programming. “At ALTT we focus on entertainment for all members of a household. All content on our platforms falls within the guidelines set forth by respective authorities. Our focus has always been to produce content that resonates with our audiences’ preferences, especially from non-metro, tier-II and III areas. At present, our content slate is full with many new shows launching soon. While we will continue to produce traditional web shows, we also see a lot of potential in digital reality shows,” Koka added.

The company is building a capable team and will be entering the next phase of growth . “As a part of this initiative, we have recently rebranded our platform as ‘ALTT’ with a renewed emphasis on a content library, focus on unique content, and launching new seasons of our top shows and user experience in terms of improving the platform to boost user engagement and satisfaction,” Koka added.

Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital Ltd, said ALTT hasn’t been able to crack the subscription video-on-demand segment, despite low pricing, and does not have the budget to scale up, especially at a time global giants such as Disney, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are vying for eyeballs. “This has happened despite its first-mover advantage in the OTT space.” Live Mint

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