Balaji Telefilms’ video streaming service ALT Balaji has tied up with carrier billing payments company Fortumo, allowing users from Fortumo’s carrier network across the world to pay for the content. Carrier billing is an important payment mechanism, especially in India where most mobile users don’t have credit cards: It allows users to subscribe to the streaming service by deducting the charge from their prepaid phones or charging it to their monthly phone bill.
Balaji Telefilms finally launched ALT Balaji on the Google Play Store in February. As planned earlier, the app has content in Hindi, English and in regional languages (presently only Tamil). The company had postponed the launch of the video streaming service and was due to launch the app in June 2016. Free and paid content, both can be accessed only after signing into the app. Though most content seems to be free on the platform, access to some films can be accessed at Rs.30.
Around two years ago, Fortumo had said that over 80% of payments for digital content in India are from mobile devices. We’ve written to Fortumo for updated data.
Though carrier billing option could offer content platforms easy access to a subscriber base, it comes with its set of challenges. Karan Bedi, COO of Eros Now, had said at our payments discussion last year that telecom operators take a large percentage (sometimes even 50%) of the gross revenue, making their streaming business unviable. Essentially this would mean that the carrier and the government would take about 62% of the end user price.
That said, carrier billing offers the most frictionless payment service at present, though wallets come close.
Watal Committee on carrier billing:
Note that the Watal Committee on digital payments had recommended that telecom operators be allowed direct carrier billing for low value transactions, with light touch regulation, open to regular evaluation. The report was trying to clear up regulatory ambiguity whether offering wider carrier billing facilities could potentially contravene the provisions of RBI’s PPI Guidlines, and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)’s license conditions.
Read the details here.