Home / Industry / Media /  With Hotstar, Star India aims to change the way content is consumed in India

Mumbai: Star India’s latest and biggest digital initiative, the Hotstar app, launched over a week ago, is aiming to change the way Indians consume content. Coming 18 months after the launch of its other digital property, Starsports.com, Hotstar has been launched under its wholly owned subsidiary Novi Digital Entertainment Pvt. Ltd that also won the digital media rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Tuesday. Hotstar offers more than 35,000 hours of content in 7 different languages—promising viewers a big library of movies, television shows and even live sports (cricket, football, tennis and kabaddi). Viewers can download the Hotstar app, available across all platforms including Android and iOS, or even access the content from the Hotstar website free of cost.

For the 21st Century Fox-owned broadcaster, Hotstar, which was in the making for more than 15 months, is perhaps its most ambitious digital offering so far. The idea, said Sanjay Gupta, chief operating officer, Star India, is to be a one-stop destination for users to consume premium content across genres and languages and, more importantly, at their own convenience. “There aren’t many platforms available to Indian consumers offering high-quality, curated content besides, say, YouTube," he said.

Viewers will be able to watch all the shows telecast on the Star channels a day later on Hotstar.

Similarly, for the first time, English dramas and serials that premiere in the US and are showcased on Star in India, will also be available for consumption on Hotstar. The platform will also stream upcoming Cricket World Cup matches live, with a five-minute delay.

The opportunity is immense for Star India, said Gupta. For one, it gives them access to a much larger and valuable target audience—primarily the younger generation and also those in the 25-and-above age bracket, wanting to consume content on the go. To address bandwidth issues, Hotstar also offers the option for content to be downloaded and watched at a later time. The broadcaster has also gone one step ahead and is offering this platform on Nokia Asha devices, enabling it to reach people beyond the big cities.

Since content is being offered free of cost, Star said it is looking at monetizing purely through advertising. Gupta was not forthcoming on the estimated revenue from Hotstar, but he said the platform would contribute around 20-25% to the overall revenue for Star India in the next 4-5 years.

“It’s a valuable audience and advertising will be very targeted. We can charge a premium versus other digital players," he said.

There’s also scope for more advertising on digital. There are about 20,000 advertisers on television, across all channels. “Compare this with the 500,000 advertisers on digital," he said, adding that this will open up the scale of advertising in the country. According to a report by global media-buying and planning firm GroupM, digital media is expected to grow at 37% in 2015, compared with an average rate of 35% over the last two years. This year within digital media, video, mobile and social will be the biggest growth drivers, the report said.

At the moment, revenue from the digital space, is roughly around 4,000 crore in India, said Gupta. Star India is looking at a good chunk of this number, Gupta said. The Hotstar app has seen 1.5 million downloads in the span of a week, topping the list of free apps available on the Android Play Store. Gupta said their idea was to first build scale, like they did in Starsports.com, and then build revenue.

To make the Hotstar initiative work, Star launched a marketing blitz on its own channels. It also ran a print campaign and is looking at spending close to 50-100 crore on advertising and promotion in the near future.

Gupta isn’t too worried about competition from platforms such as Singapore-based Spuul.com, Times Internet-led Box TV or Zee group’s Ditto TV, among others. Other media experts seem to agree: “Star has strong brand equity among advertisers. They are long-term players and must have thought out their strategy," noted Charulata Ravi Kumar, CEO, Razorfish India, a digital agency. “What works in Star’s favour is the kind of content aggregation they have put in place. Quite unlike other players in this space, which offer either just movies or TV." She added that offering live TV shows on Hotstar may not necessarily work, as that would take away from the broadcaster’s television ad revenues—its biggest earner currently.

Star said it would also look at leveraging this platform later on, to exclusively showcase content, be it award shows, movie premieres, or other content designed exclusively for Hotstar.

Vikram Menon, president and country head—OgilvyOne Worldwide, India, added that in some ways, Star has the first-mover advantage with the quality of their content. “The whole idea of appointment viewing is slowly seeing a shift, with people increasingly choosing to watch content on their personal devices, at their own time," he said. “I’m sure they will look at different ways to monetize going forward," he added.

Anil K. Nair CEO, digital, L&K Saatchi and Saatchi, a digital agency, agreed, pointing out that the overlap between video-on-demand and mobility is one of the hottest areas of growth. “It’s a lucrative growth opportunity for a player like Star to saturate the market."

Nair said it would be interesting if Star, down the line, is able to integrate more features on its platform, such as being able to chat with friends during the course of a programme, or to be able to shop for the fashion shown on television.

Starplayer.com, launched by Star India earlier, which showcased TV serials and dramas has been discontinued and the same content will now be available on Hotstar.

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