Adding subscribers like never before says Varun Narang as Hotstar shatters IPL records

Gap between IPL consumption on TV and Hostar reducing adds Narang


BALI: The Walt Disney Company direct-to-consumer and international segment chairman Kevin Mayer termed Hotstar a juggernaut on the opening day of APOS 2019. That description seems rather perfect given some of the insights and numbers offered by the streaming service’s chief product officer Varun Narang on the final day of the summit in Bali, Indonesia on Thursday.

Widely regarded as the home of cricket in India, Hotstar in 2019 has been on a record-breaking spree of sorts.

“IPL always brings in tons of new users. We are just half way through (the 2019 season) and we’ve had over 300 million users watching. Compared to last year, we are already 50 per cent more. Engagement, too, is double. No matter what matrix you look at, it is tending to be double of last year,” said Narang during a one-on-one conversation with Media Partners Asia’s Vivek Couto during a session titled ‘India: OTT drives borderless ambition’.

While the over-the-top platform boasts of over 300 million monthly active users, like most players, it does not disclose the subscriber numbers. Couto-led MPA and other industry estimates peg that number to about 2.5 million.

The former Hulu executive also articulated various reasons that have helped Hotstar add subscribers at a rapid pace of late.

“We have one of the strongest content portfolios in the country. When it comes to local consumers, we have the widest portfolio of content. We have the strongest Hollywood content exclusively in India. If you want tens and millions of subscribers, you have to go after the local language. We have a really exciting slate of content. We are going to raise the bar in production value. We will be investing in all of this content. We will be offering compelling and affordable services. We are adding subscribers like never before. That’s also because we have never focused on the mid-tier mass market before,” he explained.

According to Star India’s latest numbers, the network has seen 411 million viewers tuning in. This is close to the total tournament reach of last year. While the network continues to use all its might on linear television to enhance that reach, more and more fans seem to be consuming IPL on Hotstar every year.

“We always look at what is the percentage of viewership between Hotstar and TV. Every year, we come up with larger and more material percentage number. The gap between Hotstar and television viewership is reducing,” Narang stated.

He also touched upon the initiatives and innovation undertaken by his team from an advertising standpoint.

“When it comes to targeting, not just by age, gender, demography but all types of targeting in terms of formats, measurement, there is literally nothing we are aware of that the majors like Google, Facebook offer and we don’t. In fact, during this IPL we are doing (targeting) live at a scale that isn’t happening anywhere in the world. We have advertising within our social feed. You can order from Swiggy without even missing a single moment of IPL or cricket within Hotstar,” he highlighted.

One of the key themes to emerge out of the dialogue is the amount of work that teams at Hotstar continue to put in to improve systems from every perspective. Providing a better all-round experience to consumers is the main mantra for the streaming service.

“While preparing for large events like the IPL or World Cup, we spend over a million dollars in just testing to make sure all our services work as desired,” Narang revealed.

The streamer has stitched up several partnerships that serve different strategic and business goals. While partners help drive scale, the user experience is always owned by Hotstar.

“We work with telcos very strategically. We don’t shy away from short-term tactical deals. So far it’s worked really well for us. We rely on telcos to drive scale for us. Our unit of distribution is always Hotstar. The content always plays within Hotstar. So we own the user experience. We have one of the largest data platforms in the world. We collect over 10 billion data events every single day. We use that for all types of personalisation and recommendation across the system as well as ad targeting,” Narang stated.

Apart from telcos, the company works with other partners as well in order to build its subscription business.

One of the key challenges for streaming platforms in India remains the ease of payment. Narang, though, is optimistic of making major improvements on the success rate of online payments in the coming months and quarters.

Of late, Hotstar has paid special attention to two key engagement tools – gamification and social. That effort seems to now be paying dividends for the company.

“We have an opportunity to experiment with ideas like social and gamification and see what sticks. I was recently sent a note that said the engagement of comments on Hotstar around IPL is way, way higher than all other social platforms,” Narang added.

Latest Reads

AT&T rolls out fastest consumer broadband at 2-gig, 5-gig speeds

Mumbai: Telecommunication giant AT&T has rolled out the fastest consumer broadband services at new multi-gig speeds of 2-gig and 5-gig for its fiber customers across parts of the network’s footprint. Starting 24 January, AT&T’s nearly 5.2 million customer locations in parts of more than 70...

iWorld Over The Top Services
National Poker Series set to return with second edition on 6 March

National Poker Series (NPS) India is set to return with its second edition on 6 March. The series has announced a prize pool of Rs 18.5 crore for 84 tournaments across 15 days.

iWorld e-commerce
Trai directs DPOs to comply with provisions of interconnection regulations

Mumbai: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has directed all distribution platform operators (DPOs) to ensure compliance with the provisions of the interconnection regulations pertaining to the listing and display of TV channels on the electronic programme guide (EPG). The telecom...

iWorld Telecom
Netflix launches ‘Take Ten’ initiative to support emerging filmmakers

Mumbai: Netflix on Monday announced the launch of 'Take Ten,' a short film workshop and competition, that aims to discover and support emerging filmmakers from diverse backgrounds in India. 'Take Ten' is sponsored by Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, which has dedicated $100 million a year over...

iWorld Over The Top Services
Trai to come up with recommendations to facilitate 5G rollout

Mumbai: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will soon come up with recommendations to facilitate telecom connectivity and for easing out network rollout issues being faced by telecom companies, especially with regard to 5G.   During a virtual event organised by Digital Infrastructure...

iWorld Telecom
‘Akhanda’ becomes most-watched Telugu film on Disney+ Hotstar

OTT streaming service Disney+ Hotstar stated that the film "Akhanda" has garnered the highest viewership and watch time on the platform for a Telugu language title.

iWorld Over The Top Services
Podcast consumption on Gaana jumped 40 % YoY in 2021: CMO Shashwat Goswami

If the digital revolution paved the way for the OTT boom, it also provided a fresh impetus to the audio industry to evolve with the changing times. As the habit of consuming content on the go became a lifestyle for people, audio emerged as the most convenient option to keep one entertained and...

iWorld Over The Top Services
Vodafone Idea reports consolidated loss of Rs 7,231 cr in Q3

Vodafone Idea on Friday reported a consolidated loss of Rs 7,230.9 crore for the third quarter ending December 2021. This is up from Rs 4,532.1 crore that the telecom major reported in the corresponding quarter previous year.

iWorld Telecom
Reliance net profit jumps 41 % YoY to reach Rs 18,549 crores in Q3

Mumbai: Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) continued its golden run, and posted a net profit of Rs 18,549 crores for the third quarter ended 31 December 2021. This is an increase of 41 per cent from ₹13,101 crore reported a year ago during the same period. The company had...

iWorld Telecom

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required