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Hotstar to blend ICC World Cup 2019 with Original series to expand subscriber base

The OTT platform got 18.6 million concurrent viewers for the IPL Finale and expects ICC World Cup 2019 to do equally well for which it has undertaken new programming initiatives. Apart from sports, the platform is also bullish on its original series under Hotstar Specials

After experiencing a massive growth during Indian Premier League 2019, Star India’s OTT platform Hotstar is betting on World Cup 2019 to expand its subscription base. World Cup 2019 is the 12th edition of the Cricket World Cup and will be hosted by England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.

To attract viewers, Hotstar, an official digital broadcaster, will live stream all the warm-up games of the tournament, from May 24 to May 28. There are two warm-up games scheduled to be played each day.  The OTT platform will also be streaming the live feed in six languages – English, Hindi, Bangla, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.

Apart from that, Hotstar will also stream all the games in the tournament that will be broadcasted live on Star Sports Network channels – Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1 Hindi, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1 Kannada, Star Sports 1 Bangla and Star Sports Select 1.

The platform is not just focusing on the matches of World Cup 2019 but is also planning to boost Hotstar originals amid the tournament. Hotstar is hoping that while viewing the World Cup, the consumers sample their new original series launched under Hotstar Specials.

Nikhil Madhok

Speaking to, Nikhil Madhok, EVP & Head Hotstar Original Content, said, “IPL 2019 received massive response from the audience, it was almost 70 to 80% bigger than the last time. For the IPL Finale Match we got around 18.6 million concurrent viewership, which is a new global record. Now, we expect ICC World Cup 2019 to do really well. In between World Cup 2019 and General Election 2019, several viewers are going to consume content on Hotstar. Hence, by launching Hotstar Specials, we are giving our original series an opportunity to get sampled by these viewers. Hopefully they enjoy the shows and become paid member of either VIP or Premium.”

In India, it is difficult to convert free subscribers to paid subscribers. Several platforms are struggling to find a healthy conversion rate as a result of which they have adopted the hybrid — SVOD+AVOD — model. While Hotstar also follows the hybrid strategy, the platform currently has around 300 million active users.

Madhok said the fact that Hotstar is driven by different programming across genres — originals, sport, news, regional, movies and series — is the reason why they don’t see much drop in the watch time and is able to retain viewers.

“We don’t see too many blips. The biggest change took place during IPL because it is the biggest tournament in the country. Once IPL was over there was a slight decline but then we landed up on a level higher than what we had before commencing IPL. On all other things, since there are so many programming available from GECs, regional and news; one individual piece of programming doesn’t swing our watch time dramatically and also help us to retain our viewers.”

In order to attract paid subscribers, Hotstar has also divided their subscription service into Premium and VIP. The Premium subscription offers viewers with all the exclusive content, including English shows and movies whereas the VIP service has been created with an objective of building the subscription service in India. The VIP service includes sports, Hotstar Specials, television shows and Bollywood premieres but it doesn’t include English content.

Madhok said that with Hotstar VIP, they have made content more accessible to viewers. “We made it more accessible service to build the subscription market in this country. One can access all the content, excluding English, for Rs 365 per annum. While VIP is about making free subscribers to paid subscribers, Premium is about offering subscribers more curated content along with English,” he said.

In the past few months, alongside IPL 2019, Hotstar focused on strengthened its original content catalogue with the launch of new series under Hotstar Specials. In past two months, the platform launched three originals — Criminal Justice, Roar of the Lion and City Of Dreams. For the specials, Hotstar got on board popular names such as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Jackie Shroff, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Nagesh Kukunoor, Atul Kulkarni, Priya Bapat among others.

The platform will launch its fourth original series Hostages, which is directed by Sudhir Mishra and features Tisca Chopra and Ronit Roy as leads. Created by Applause Entertainment, it will go on air on May 31. The series is an official adaptation of the internationally acclaimed series, ‘Hostages’.

Asked about the strategies behind the original series and how Hotstar is planning to differentiate for other existing players, Madhok replied, “Our slate has got a healthy mix of ideas that are home-grown, local and revolves around format adaptation. Right now, the formats that are being adapted in India are only in English and that makes for a very small niche audience. Most of the people aren’t able to see those shows for this reason. So adapting to local Indian languages will enable the country at large to access these global stories. I feel that for 99% of population, Hostages is going to be an original series. It is such a great story that there was no reason to not adapt it in a different language.”

Madhok said Hotstar Specials has helped achieve a large number of subscribers and grow the watch time of paid members. “While all three of them have done quite well, I would like to call out Criminal Justice, which has become a massive hit. Not just on Hotstar but in the Indian OTT space, I will call Criminal Justice a really big hit,” he said.

Following such a positive response, Hotstar is planning to launch at least one show in every four to six weeks in 2019 and from early 2020, they aim to increase it to more than one show a month.

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