Nitin Burman, VP and head - non-subscription revenue, opens up about the brand’s growth after introducing the AVoD model, partnerships and more.
In the contemporary media landscape, there has been a noticeable shift in audience preferences towards high-quality content, particularly in films and web series, as opposed to ostentatious, star-studded productions. Furthermore, there is a burgeoning interest in regional film industries owing to their production of compelling content. aha, a hyperlocal OTT platform, caters to this evolving preference by offering a diverse array of movies, series and reality shows in Telugu and Tamil languages.
Since its inception in 2020, aha has witnessed substantial growth, increasing its revenue from 0 to 50 crore till date. In August 2022, the platform introduced its Advertising Video on Demand (AVoD) model, following the acquisition of two million paid subscribers within its first two years of operation. Nitin Burman, vice president and head - non-subscription revenue, aha, explains that the company initially achieved its growth primarily through brand solutions and content syndication, generating approximately eight crore in the first year.
However, in its second year, the company saw a threefold increase in revenue. Additionally, Burman highlights the contribution of aha's YouTube channel, which garnered almost three million subscribers, further augmenting the platform's growth.
Discussing the brand's trajectory for future expansion, Burman states, “In the current year we plan to touch 50 crore which will be two times more than last year. We have rolled out on-ground IPs in the last two months which is our fifth revenue vertical in non-subscription business.”
The platform is currently dedicated to expanding the landscape of its regional AVoD content. Burman emphasises aha's aspiration to establish its presence in every household. "We have not limited ourselves to only movies. We have been picking content that is valued by our audience and aim to bring movies and shows that are unique."
Various OTT platforms, including Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5 and Jio Cinema, have introduced unskippable ads for their users. In alignment with this industry trend, aha has also partnered with renowned brands to display ads on its platform. Burman states that aha does not have skippable ads. The duration of ads has been limited to a maximum of 30 seconds. “We are priced in such a way that our maximum ads are between 10-20 seconds only. We have opted for native advertising as it blends seamlessly with our content and makes them less intrusive,” he notes.
Talking about the ad formats aha offers its advertisers, Burman says, “Aha provides a selection of ad formats that encompass video inventory, including pre-rolls and mid-rolls, banner inventory, positioned strategically above the hero carousel and other prominent areas, as well as interstitial ads.”
In addition to movies and web series, aha also showcases various reality shows like Indian Idol, Bigg Boss Tamil, Family Dhamaka, to name a few. According to Burman, reality shows play a significant role as 50% of its revenue contribution comes from brand solutions on these shows.
“We have done shows ranging from singing and dancing reality shows, game shows and also shows like Nenu Super Woman (similar to Shark Tank). We have an in-house creative team that fits brands into the show content. We are now creating tailor-made products for brands like brand films, and music videos and now are going to do a game show for a client called aha Dugout to capture the World Cup fever among the Telugu audience,” he says.
aha’s ‘Deep Bharat Strategy’ was established in 2022 with the aim to acquire users in major tier 2 and 3 cities of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. Burman claims that both retail and national clients have helped the brand to drive the strategy. “Clients like Sprite, RealMe (national), Tenali Double Horse, Freedom Oil and South India Shopping Mall (retail), with their strong distribution, have helped us make aha reach to lengths and breadths of AP and TG so far,” he says.
Following the launch of AVoD, Burman announced that the company has granted viewers limited-ads access to its premium library. “It has helped us to go deeper in the tier 2 and 3 areas of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and also engage with young adults,” he adds.
Burman further states that the platform is actively seeking collaborations with existing clients while maintaining a focus on attracting new clients. This strategy involves showcasing successful examples of partnerships with current clients as a means of building and expanding aha's client base. “Currently, we are working with all major categories and have already worked with top clients in each category like HUL, Sprite, ITC in FMCG, RealMe, Vivo IQOO in Handsets, LIC in BFSI and more.”
Are Kannada and Malayalam content part of aha’s future plans?
Burman says that he is open to exploring the idea of introducing Kannada and Malayalam content on aha but is unsure as the brand wants to be cautious about where it will be investing.
“We are also thinking of introducing other non-southern regional language content that has a significant value in the industry. As of now, we want to grow our existing languages and then move on to the next. We have grown up to 50% in Telugu content in two years and we want the same growth for Tamil content as well. We are aiming for 50-50 contributions for both languages first,” he states.