In conversations with Manav Sethi, Chief Marketing Officer at AltBalaji
With the launch of AltBalaji app, Ekta Kapoor has surprised her audience by bringing queer themed web-series to the mainstream! The platform is offering a full-fledged gay romantic drama series called Romil and Jugal, which is not only winning hearts among the community members but also gaining popularity within the mainstream audience. Other web-series titled Boygiri has an out and proud gay character, while the web-series Dev DD is talking about the desires of Indian lesbians. One can only comment on its credibility and correctness after watching the show,
Three queer-themed series in a few weeks of launching the platform had us intrigued and we got behind the screens for a quick conversation with Manav Sethi, Chief Marketing Officer, AltBalaji.
Here are the edited excerpts.
Gaysi: What inspired you to add LGBTQ content in AltBalaji Originals?
Manav: When we were looking at stories that can be manifested into shows for AltBalaji, few of the stories evaluated in same sex people falling in love with each other. Our aim is to deliver interesting stories that can suit individuals, so we just looked at the interesting concept without labelling and judging it and when we made the show we didn’t make it only for a particular set of audience.
Gaysi: Do you think the audience is ready to consume LGBTQ content in India? Please share your thoughts on the same.
Manav: As far as my understanding of consumer behaviour, India is an entertainment-starved country. We have been single TV households and there are certain guidelines due to which we can’t tell every story on small screen or even on the silver screen. That’s the strength of video streaming platforms where one can initiate the conversations which are already taking place in our society but in the closet. So according to me, India is very much at the quest of that maturity to embrace alternative content like ours.
Gaysi: Will audience accept LGBTQ content on Television?
Manav: The inherent issue with the Television is that it’s not a personal device, so personality led choices for content consumption cannot happen on TV. We know that audience in India is mature but there is a fair chunk of the audience, which is not mature enough to that extent.
Romil and Jugal has nothing objectionable as far as the content is concerned. But since it is a love story of two boys, people may like it or not; that completely depends on an individual’s choice.
Gaysi: What kind of response have you received so far? How is the audience reacting to the LGBTQ-themed web-series: Romil and Jugal, Dev DD and Boygiri?
Manav: I am very happy to share that the response for Romil and Jugal is overwhelming and we have witnessed huge audience engagement. While Kar Le Tu Bhi Mohabbat featuring TV’s most celebrated Jodi Ram Kapoor and Sakshi Tanwar has been viewed the most on the other side, Romil and Jugal has sparked a lot of conversations and it’s so fascinating that people are actually coming out of the closet and embracing the show. Interestingly the maximum number of people who are talking about Romil and Jugal are not from the LGBTQ community.
Gaysi: Did LGBTQ- themed content help AltBalaji increase its paid subscription base?
Manav: It’s too early to say as we have launched AltBalaji only a few days ago. So at this point, it will be difficult to say which show is contributing to the paid subscription base. But the kind of response Romil and Jugal has received is tremendous; it’s among top 3 highest rated and most viewed shows on our platform. We have already witnessed millions of views on the app itself apart from YouTube and Facebook.
Gaysi: Since the response has been overwhelming, when are you planning to launch the new seasons?
Manav: We will be monitoring and analysing the performance of our shows for at least next two quarters, and only after six months we will make our further strategy of expansion. As of now, we are targeting to take our shows to a 100 million views, which will take at least one quarter and after that, we will expand our content accordingly.