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We are focusing on both premium and subscription audiences this year, more than ever, says Sidharth Shakdher of Disney+ Hotstar

In an interaction with, Sidharth Shakdher, EVP and CMO, Disney+ Hotstar, discusses their IPL marketing strategy and plans ahead

Sidharth Shakdher

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is a big crowd-puller for the Disney+ Hotstar platform. During the tournament every year, the digital streaming platform sees its paid subscriber base multiplying and the revenue shooting in tandem.

The platform hopes the gains it makes during the tournament are sustained even after the Indian Premier League is over.

In a conversation with, Sidharth Shakdher, EVP and CMO, Disney+ Hotstar, said, "Every time we have entered IPL, we have seen a 50% increase in consumption on IPL itself. That's what we did last year and that's what we aim to do this year also. However, at the end of it, we intend to establish a deeper connection after IPL is over.”

Speaking about their marketing campaign for this edition, Shakdher said the insight behind the campaign was that although it's a difficult time for the country, IPL is that one little thing that brings people together and allows them to indulge themselves for a few hours and be happy about it.

“Every city, every team and every fan have their own vibe. That's what makes the vibe of India so amazing. So, that was the thought behind this whole fan, or city and team-based celebration that we have. The full sont/anthem is made of eight different songs for eight cities; even the instruments used are specific to that city. However, it's all set to a common soundtrack sung by Nucleya,” he said.

“As we go through IPL, the full song will be cut down into pieces. What you have seen is the bigger picture but eventually, it will go into the fan clubs and teams with the intention that it will help them express what they feel about IPL,” stated Shakdher.

They have launched another campaign ‘Entertainment ka all-rounder’ that aims at establishing a connection with the audience that is beyond just IPL. “If you see our ad, we speak about the fact that there is so much great content here that the biggest pieces of content are going to fight for your time. This led us to the tagline ‘Entertainment ka all-rounder’. The question is does this help us connect with consumers beyond just IPL. It's a different way of content marketing because we are connecting on the back of multiplex movies like The Big Bull. Tamil shows like November Story and shows like Arya and OK Computer. On the back of all of these things, we intend to establish a deeper connection than just cricket with the consumer. That's the way we are approaching it. It's not just taking a title and marketing it, it's a slightly different way of trying to establish a connection with a consumer. I think it is more consumer outweighed than a title or a product-outweighed approach in doing this.”

Compared to the marketing of previous seasons, Shakdher said this year’s marketing will be more focused on the platform being the best entertainment option for the consumers. “Previously, we might have marketed the mobility benefits and we moved on to how great the IPL experience is on Disney+ Hotstar with the watch and play feature. This year, we have staked into the fact that this is your best entertainment destination along with IPL. So you're getting the best of both worlds here. I think this evolution of the messaging, that's a big change for us,” he stated.

He said they are putting in more money on digital marketing and social media interactions this season. “I think the critical piece for us this year is we are starting to target a very urban audience now. The top 50 cities are our core audiences but beyond that there are a lot of people who live in urban areas who are influenced by these cities within a certain radius of that urban area. So using geographical targeting and using the behaviour that we see on digital, we are targeting the relevant audiences and spending more there. The other area where we are spending more and in the past is social media. For example, earlier ‘Vibe Alag Hai’ would be more focused on the match and what is happening in the match. This year, the focus is more on the fans and their experiences. It's a more participatory and interactive social experience this year than it has been in the previous years and we're spending much more on that, as well.”

He said campaigns like ‘Vibe Alag Hai’ will help in retaining the audiences beyond the IPL period. “If this message resonates, it will create a higher order and not just a functional connection. Apart from this, we actually have a lot of stuff coming in after the IPL. Also on social media, when you allow people to express themselves, become a part of their banter and the journey again, it helps establish a deeper connection with the consumer. If these two things happen, then I think it will automatically lead to a lot of retention post IPL. This year, more than ever, we are focusing on both Freemium and subscription audiences. We've also amped up our game in terms of the kind of content that's coming in, both during and after IPL.”

Asked which medium helped the platform scale the subscriber base, he said that while they don’t have subscriber numbers, he thinks not one individual medium can be picked. “It's difficult to say which medium contributes more. While we measure each medium deeply, there's a multi-touch attribution mechanism that we use. As long as the messaging is relevant, there is no one medium that singularly contributes to consumer moving to Disney+ Hotstar to becoming a subscriber. I think it's more a mix of mediums that works. For us, TV and digital contributed in equal measure in getting consumers because there is an evolution and a consumer journey also. A large part of the role is also played by our on-platform marketing. Once they are on the platform, the personalisation on the platform, the ads that they see on the platform, the notifications, etc., all play a role in converting them to subscribers.”

However, he said, digital plays a key role in establishing awareness and communication around single titles and properties. “I think it's a journey and mediums and their attribution changes according to the statute of the property and the journey of the product itself.”

Shakdher said a number of exciting originals from Disney+ such as Loki, the Falcon and Winter Soldier are keeping the audiences entertained. Speaking about the current situation with cases rising again and lockdowns in metro cities, Shakdher said the need for a personal screen has grown manifold. “It's a difficult situation for everybody. So I think we constantly are sensitive about it. However, from an AVOD perspective and a subscriber perspective, it's difficult to say where these things end up.”

“People may not be going out and many of them are at home. With single TV households, the need for people to watch what they want to watch is higher. So personal screens become more relevant. My sense is that at the end of the day, that doesn't change with or without a lockdown much.”

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