Late last year, Ajit Mohan, the chief executive officer of Hotstar, Star India’s Over-The-Top (OTT) service, wrote an email to the employees, primarily to apprise them of key organisational changes. The email also delved a fair bit on Hotstar’s operations. Mohan listed out some of the biggest milestones Hotstar managed to achieve in November alone:Screenshot of the email Ajit Mohan sent to Hotstar employees
Notable from Mohan’s email is that it all occurred amidst a rapidly evolving landscape, both in terms of competition and online video consumption patterns. Last year saw many international streaming services make their way into India. In January 2016, Netflix launched in India, as part of a massive international expansion, which included 129 other countries. Later in the year, in December, Amazon finally brought its decade-old Prime Video to India. Then there are others, homegrown OTT services like Voot (Network 18), dittoTV (Zee) and Sony LIV (Sony), to name a few.
Let’s spend a little time dissecting Mohan’s email first. It is a good starting point to understand the state of affairs at Hotstar.
Hotstar’s growth came on the back of the domino effect triggered by Reliance Jio. A steep fall in data costs across cellular operators ensued. The result? A significant increase in consumption of online video content. “We grew almost 100% after Jio came into the picture—from 30 million users back then to where we are today,” says a Hotstar executive who requested not to be named because he is not authorised to speak with the media. “What we’ve also observed is that nearly 60-65% of Jio users are actively consuming our live cricket coverage.”
The numbers add up. Hotstar claims to have added 10 million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) in January alone, taking the number from 50 million (in December 2016) to 60 million (end of January 2017). This number is internally projected to rise to 100 million by the end of April 2017. Hotstar also claims to have over 140 million downloads to date. The company’s ambition stems from its impressive financial performance in FY 2016, also its first full year of operations. Hotstar earned a revenue of Rs 185.7 crore, nearly 4X of what it earned in the previous year. Its net loss stood at Rs 409 crore. In 2017, Hotstar wants more, with its internal revenue target for FY 2017 pegged at an ambitious Rs 500 crore.
As part of research for this story, The Ken made multiple attempts to reach Hotstar for perspective. The company declined to participate in the story.
A bite of the SVoD pie
On the face of it, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video might seem like Hotstar’s primary rivals.