Benita Chacko
OTT Streaming

With Rs 1,000 cr investment, aha to expand into new languages over 3 years

The streaming service, which currently has offerings in Telugu and Tamil, plans to foray into Malayalam and Kannada this year.

aha, the regional OTT platform, is set to receive an investment infusion of over Rs 1,000 crore over the next three years. The funds will be used towards consolidation of its current languages and expansion into new languages and genres, aha's promoter Allu Aravind and CEO Ajit Thakur announced at a media roundtable on the platform's completion of three years. aha also plans to launch live commerce.

The streaming service, which currently has offerings in Telugu and Tamil, plans to foray into Malayalam and Kannada this year. It is also looking to expand into other languages like Punjabi, Gujarati and Marathi.

Allu Aravind
Allu Aravind

Aravind shared, "We're happy with the run we've had in these three years. We know that aha came in and catered to a gap in the OTT space by offering 100% local content. Today, we are successful in Telugu and are growing fast in Tamil. The time has come to grow further into more languages.”

With the addition of the two new languages, the platform intends to have a subscriber base of 12 million by 2025. With just Telugu and Tamil subscribers, it intends to reach about six million over the next three years.

Ajit Thakur
Ajit Thakur

"That will put us amongst the top 3-4 SVoD apps in the country, and that too without catering to the Hindi-speaking audience. In the middle of the big Goliaths, we are not a David anymore, because our numbers in Telugu are higher than any of the others, and we hope to do the same in Tamil," Thakur added.

Currently, the platform has 2.5 million subscribers. It witnessed a 40% growth over last year's 1.8 million. These are direct subscribers of the platform and don't come through any form of bundled services.

aha launched an AVoD model last year. It served ads to its free subscribers. It raked in $4 million through its non-subscription revenue. However, 80% of it is wasn't through ads, but brand integrations.

"The idea wasn't to dish out ads to our paying subscribers, but monetise the unique proposition that we have. Brand solutions is a different revenue stream for us."

Thakur said ads are not the way aha plans to grow. "Primarily, we're still an SVoD platform, dabbling with AVoD. I continue to believe in the power of SVoD over the next 3-5 years."

aha claims to have one of the highest resubscription rates in the category, with more than 55% returning subscribers. Thakur attributes it to aha's programming strategy, whereby it launches content every week.

"In this category, the biggest struggle is to retain the audience the next month or the next quarter. Every time the subscription expires, the audience has seven other apps to choose from."

In terms of marketing, when aha launches a new show or film, it focusses more on the rural areas, and Tier-II/III cities, rather than the metros. Its marketing spend for Hyderabad is less than 20% of its budget.

"These areas have access to online videos, but nobody's really marketing to them. These are TV households so they have that disposable income. The only barrier is to download the app. We have an initiative, called 'Project Bahubali', where we reach out to 100 small towns, district centres, rural areas, and get them to download the app."

aha is on its way to offer 'personalised entertainment', i.e., it will cater to everyone. It offers talk shows, reality shows and has also added news. It plans to offer gaming, news, K-dramas, short form, interactive content, among other genres. However, it plans to reduce its dependence on movies, as it has become very expensive to acquire their rights.

"Hence, a path to profitability is more likely for a local app like us, than some of the bigger apps that are investing a lot more in content."

Owned by Arha Media & Broadcasting, a joint venture by Allu Aravind (Geetha Arts) and My Home Group, aha has 2,000-plus hours of content, including 350-plus hours of exclusive and original content and 32 million app downloads. It also has 12 million monthly active users.

With its launch in Telugu and Tamil, the overseas network has now spread across the US, UK, Australia as well as Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

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