Challenge the establishment to crack digital code: Hotstar’s Ajit Mohan

The campaign 'Torrents Morghulis' led to a dramatic rise of Hotstar Premium subscribers


MUMBAI: Just when India was warming up to the concept of internet on the mobile, Star India came out with its over the top platform Hotstar. Today, it is the top OTT platform in the country and one may think the road to success was entirely smooth. But Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan spoke about the streamer's journey  while speaking at The Advertising Club’s D-Code.

Hotstar was initially a free-ad supported venture when it was launched in 2015 causing rapid growth in users. The challenge was when it had to convince the price-conscious Indian consumer to pay. Indians were so used to free goodies that paying for content was unheard of.

It had just bagged the streaming rights for the popular show Game of Thrones season 6 and came out with a campaign leveraging the lingo of the American fantasy drama. Though it was a great campaign for Game of Thrones fans, the subscription number did not move.

The game changer campaign which makes the Hotstar CEO very proud, was launched during season 7 of the stalwart show. The multimedia campaign titled 'Torrents Morghulis' is a twist on the phrase 'Valar Morghulis' from the show. The meaning of the original phrase “All men must die” was tweaked into “All torrents must die.”

“It clearly communicated the fearlessness of the premium proposition,” Ajit Mohan said. It was not easy to challenge torrents which enjoyed a lot of loyalty and commitment among its users. “…Therefore it was a statement to tell them (torrent users) that not just did we have a better proposition than torrent but torrent was dying,” he added. The campaign led to a “dramatic rise” in Hotstar Premium Subscription numbers.

Mohan also spoke about a campaign from Domino’s which can give valuable lessons to brands. The “classic video campaign” was rolled out during this IPL leveraging Hotstar’s WatchN’Play. While WatchN’Play provided cricket fans to play along with their favourite teams virtually, Domino’s was the first brand to utilise the opportunity. The rule for users was that the points collected from the game help to access Domino’s coupons. 19 million coupons were distributed across the country on the back of this campaign. Domino’s blurred the line between brand and performance according to Mohan.

This IPL itself was a benchmark for Hotstar as 202 million viewers logged on to its video streaming platform to watch the T20 tournament. Moreover, it successfully handled more than 10 million concurrent viewers during the IPL final match.

The man who saw the challenges from the initial days of OTT business in India and built a world-class platform along with his team thinks challenging the establishment is very important, however small a brand could be. A campaign line alone does not suffice to crack digital code without an articulated philosophy. He concludes with, “Look for the truth in humour and the humour in truth.”

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