At an office in Mumbai where the Hotstar team works out of, an announcement is made. Food is available. At 7 PM.

It runs out in three minutes.

If you are late, or if you aren’t around because you’re triaging bugs in a room, you wait for the next round.

Tech companies work hard at making employees stay in office. They place beanbags everywhere, create cosy nooks, and eclectic decor persists everywhere. Who else would put bar-stools and swings in office? They also make arrangements for dinner if you stay back late. The longer a developer stays in office, the longer he codes. More code is usually good. Every company knows this.

The next round runs out in another three minutes.

Evenings at this office used to be languid. The only engineers who loitered and stuck around for dinner were mostly those who waited for the traffic to abate before they headed home. Or those who were a part of on-call teams.

It’s late. The third helping is served. And…it’s gone.

Five minutes.

A Hotstar executive who requested not to be named tells us that it’s been like this for the last five months. The fragrance of food hangs in the air. Mixed with stale sweat, frayed tempers, and overflowing trash cans. The office is packed at 11 PM. Laptop chargers are being shared in war-rooms. Simulations and load testing are on. For any engineer reading this, this scene is unmistakable. There’s nothing else like it.

With two days left for the Indian Premier League (IPL), Hotstar is racing against time to launch its boldest and most ambitious product in its history. One that will be completely behind a paywall. If it works, live sports will never be the same again.

180-200 million

The number of unique users Hotstar is expecting to get over the two months of the IPL

At the heart of Hotstar’s plans for the IPL is the bid to radically transform the live match-watching experience for the user. To make her three (or six in the case of doubleheaders) hours spent watching the proceedings worth it. The company’s aim has been to make watching live sport on the app a better experience than on TV: from non-linear highlights on demand for the user on the live stream, which essentially breaks the dependency on the broadcaster to serve you highlights.

For instance, you miss an exciting passage of play during a match, say blitzkrieg innings, a 17-ball 50 by an AB de Villiers or a hat-trick by Mitchell Starc. Quite often, while watching the match live, you’d have to wait for the broadcaster to relay the highlights, in between overs or the strategic time-out or thereabouts.

AUTHOR

Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

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