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Hotstar packs a punch with IPL 11 opening week user numbers

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MUMBAI: No longer do people have to stand outside shops on the streets to catch the cricketing action when they’re not at home. Technology has brought all the action to people’s palms. In 2015, Star India won the digital and media rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL) making viewers stick to matches through its over-the-top (OTT) platform Hotstar.

Late last year, Star won the broadcast bid for the tournament in a mega auction worth $2.55 billion for five years, beating Sony Entertainment Television by a huge margin. The ratings are keenly awaited since it is being broadcast in Hindi, English, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali; the coverage was restricted to English and Hindi on Sony Max for a decade.

Hotstar saw 42 million users during the opening of the tournament, which was held on 7 April 2018, with 4 million users in peak concurrency. The OTT is leveraging Akamai Technologies, a cloud delivery platform, for the IPL. For the match between the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on 10 April 2018, Hotstar garnered 5.5 million concurrent viewers.

This is the largest on the Akamai platform for any live sporting event in the world and the largest for any single event online by a broadcaster. This is ahead of the previous high on the Akamai platform of 4.8 million peak concurrent users, established by Hotstar during the India and Pakistan ICC Champions Trophy Final in June 2017.

Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan said, “Crossing five million on a live sporting event is like breaking the 10-second barrier in the 100-metre dash. We are proud that we are the first to get here. But, of even more importance, we are excited that fans have embraced the immersive sports experience on Hotstar that has brought together live streaming, the expression of fan emotions and an interactive always-on game.”

The IPL has been streaming on Hotstar since 2015 but this year it witnessed a sudden spike in viewers. One of the reasons for the increasing number of viewers is the innovations that Star added this year. Among these is Watch'NPlay, a skill-based game wherein a user gets to test his/her cricket knowledge and expertise with millions of other users tuned into the match. The feature takes the Indian cricket enthusiast’s innate behaviour of providing running commentary on player performance and strategy.

Watching sports is a lean-back consumption method. Unless you’re playing a sport or a game on electronic devices, one is not leaning forward. One might be leaning back and having a glass of your preferred beverage, relaxing and watching sport. Whereas, OTT is a lean-forward and individual consumption method, where one has a phone or tablet and the viewer is watching it.

In 2016, Hotstar had more than double its reach (unique viewers) for IPL. For all the games played until the playoffs (between 9 April and 22 May), 80 million people used the service, compared with 35 million a year ago. Whereas, in 2015, the app had recorded more than 110 million views for the IPL 8 till date. In comparison, the entire 2014 edition of the tournament registered 62 million views on starsports.com, last year. With 13 million views for Pepsi IPL 2014 at a similar point in the tournament last year, Hotstar has registered an 8.5X growth in viewership.

The inaugural match of the 11th season played between the Mumbai Indians and the Chennai Super Kings registered viewership on television of 6,355,000 impressions (India urban, males 15+ AB, according to Broadcast Audience Research Council data). This equals to growth of 37 per cent over last year’s opening game. These are simulcast ratings of the original telecast aired on Saturday April 7th at 8 pm across 10 Star channels—Star Sports 1; Star Sports 1 HD; Star Sports Select 1 SD; Star Sports Select 1 HD (English); Star Sports 1 (Hindi); Star Sports 1 HD (Hindi); Star Sports 1 Tamil along with Suvarna Plus (Kannada); Jalsha Movies (Bengali) and Maa Movies (Telegu).

BCCI CEO Rahul Johri said, “The Indian Premier League has once again proven that it is the largest media property in this country. This is IPL's first year of partnership with Star India and I am delighted to see with the innovations that we have introduced, viewership has set new records and the tournament is set to reach a wider audience globally than ever before. It’s setting up to be a great tournament with some fantastic cricketing action for the fans who can enjoy the games in 6 languages, live across TV and Digital for the first time.”

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