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ALT Balaji doubled subscriber additions in 2019–20, but missed revenue expectation

Screenshot of AltBalaji website

ALT Balaji doubled the number of subscriptions it sold in the financial year 2019–20 compared to the previous year, Balaji Telefilms said in its quarterly presentation to investors. This takes the number of subscriptions sold by the company from 20.1 million in 2018–19 to around 40 million in 2019–20.

In the quarter ended March 31, the service added 12,300 subscriptions per day (~1.2 million in the quarter), compared to 10,000 per day the previous quarter; but the company’s rate of growth in the previous financial year was more impressive, as it increased subscriptions sold sixteenfold compared to FY18, when the service was launched. ALT Balaji subscriptions do not auto-renew, with quarterly and annual payment options. In Q3, active direct subscribers were 1.5 million in number; the company did not provide an equivalent for this quarter.

The company has released its Q4FY20 results and presentation unusually late; it usually releases financial results less than two months after the relevant quarter, but this time, it disclosed them more than three and a half months later.

Company misses revenue expectation for ALT

  • Revenue misses expectations: The company made Rs 77.7 crore from selling subscriptions in FY20, with a net loss of Rs 111.4 crore. Of this revenue, it said last quarter that around half would be from direct subscribers (as opposed to people getting subscriptions bundled with a different service, or through a third party like a telecom operator). This number, which is less than one seventh of what their film and traditional TV productions raked in this year, fell short of what was forecasted last quarter, Rs 81 crore. This indicates that at least in the last few days of March, when lockdowns were already underway in different parts of the country, ALT Balaji did not benefit tremendously enough to beat, or even match, pre-pandemic expectations. Results from the next quarter, yet to be released, are likely to be significantly different.
  • Only 44% viewers from biggest cities: The streaming service’s user base — which has a male-female split of 70/30, with 75% of users being under 35 — is mostly from smaller tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the company said, with only 44% of paying subscribers coming from Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune.
  • Losing ground to Zee5? The company cited App Annie data (see below) to claim that it is the fourth highest paid app in India, behind Netflix and Hotstar. It’s unclear how App Annie arrived at this list, but the point to note is that ALT has lost ground to Zee5. Interestingly, ALT Balaji has a joint production deal with Zee5 which it said “reduces cash outlay” for Balaji Telefilms.

Source: App Annie via Balaji Telefilms

  • 8.4 million monthly active users “engaged”: The company says it currently has 8.4 million monthly active users “engaged”, a small number of whom convert into paying subscribers (“profitable consumers”).

Source: Balaji Telefilms

  • Films are not going on ALT Balaji: Balaji Telefilms makes a small number of movies per year, but even as the pandemic shut theatres down, Balaji is not banking on its own streaming service to release those films — they sold one film to Netflix, while they are “evaluating options” for three others.

ALT Balaji results for Q4FY20 and FY20

  • Revenue from subscriptions FY20: Rs 77.7 crore (up 85.57% YoY)
  • Revenue from subscriptions Q4FY20: Rs 22.2 crore (up 61.33% YoY, down 4.06% QoQ)
  • Net Loss FY20: Rs 111.4 crore (down 3.06% YoY)
  • Net Loss Q4FY20: Rs 24.9 crore (down 17.19% YoY, up 54.85% QoQ)
  • Subscriptions sold Q4FY20 (each subscription worth Rs 100 or Rs 300): ~1.2 million (up 23% QoQ)

Results & Investor Presentation

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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