Hotstar takes the e-comm route to tap more users

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on March 19, 2019 Published on March 19, 2019

Termed Hotstar VIP, the new subscription will be priced at ₹365 a year vis-a-vis Hotstar Premium subscription that will continue to be priced at ₹999 a year   -  Ranjitsinh Rathod

Launches new VIP subscription with CoD facility

Star India’s over-the-top (OTT) platform Hotstar is set to expand its reach by adding a new tier to its subscription service to target a larger audience looking for regional content.

Termed Hotstar VIP, the new subscription will be priced at ₹365 a year vis-a-vis Hotstar Premium subscription that will continue to be priced at ₹999 a year. And just like the good old cable TV operators, Hotstar will allow you to pay in cash for the subscription.

What that means is you’ll have the option to pay by cash on the payments page and if you use that, you get access to the VIP content immediately and there’ll be someone at your doorstep to collect the cash within 24-48 hours.

“Now users for the first time will be able to pay by cash in addition to debit card, net banking, etc. The reason we did this is because we looked at e-commerce companies and the majority of transactions are still CoD (cash on delivery). We believe this will give us access to a broader market,” Varun Narang, Chief Product Officer at Hotstar told BusinessLine.

The existing free tier will continue without any changes.

Hotstar VIP

“Hotstar VIP is going to be a mass market subscription that we expect to be the largest in the country. It will have content in seven languages. And it will allow access to all our TV content hours before it goes live on TV, giving early access to subscribers. The subscribers will also get access to live unlimited sports, including Cricket World Cup, IPL, football etc,” Narang said.

Narang said VIP subscribers will now also get access to Hotstar’s original programming called Hotstar Specials. “We are working aggressively to develop Hotstar Specials shows, creating a higher bar in terms of the quality of the shows. We want to do big, bold, authentic stories created by some of the most renowned people in the industry.”

Hotstar Specials

Hotstar will begin the Specials by launching a show called Roar of the Lion. Newer shows will be added every month. The OTT player is building these shows in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu and then subsequently dubbing them in seven Indian languages such as Marathi, Bengali and Malayalam for a larger reach.

Hotstar has already tied up with the likes of Salman Khan, Shekhar Kapur, Neeraj Pandey, Kabir Khan, and Sudhir Mishra to build Hotstar Specials.

It is competing with several Indian and overseas players in the OTT space and is a late entrant into the original programming space that is still an evolving market. Global majors such as Amazon Prime and Netflix have been aggressively launching originals in multiple Indian languages in the last few months.

On the other hand, the Indian OTT players such as Zee5, Voot and ALTBalaji also already have a significant number of originals in their catalogue of offerings.

Each of these players are trying out different things to expand its targeted subscriber base and to attract the cost conscious Indian subscriber with different offers. Amazon Prime for example is offering an annual subscription at ₹999 that includes not just Amazon Prime Video but also music streaming with Amazon Prime Music. Similarly, Zee5 has partnered with music streaming app Gaana to offer premium music streaming access for all its paid subscribers.

Additional layer

By creating an additional layer of subscription, Hotstar is trying to differentiate between a paid Indian language content library versus one with global content from the likes of HBO, Fox and Disney.

“Hotstar Premium is a niche offering targeted at an audience with an affinity towards English language content,” Narang said.

For Narang, ad-supported content and subscription services are still a small way of monetising the OTT platforms, which he feels are still scratching the surface.

“The future of TV has not even been invented yet,” Narang said. “We are among the rare companies in the world to experiment and to have a shot at coming to that. We have strong content and an engineering team that helps us come up with ideas. In future who knows how it turns out.

Hotstar will look beyond ‘good old advertising and subscription-led revenue model. We are investing in social and gamification and idea is to build compelling and fun forms of TV and there will be monetization options there as well,” Narang said.

Published on March 19, 2019
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