Hotstar’s streaming network is like a Great White in the Indian pool which hasn’t yet had a chance to swim in the global ocean. The streaming giant has a cult following in India mainly due to the Star Network and the presence of infamous soap-operas and cricket. Since the last 4 years before it first launched, Hotstar has amassed around 80 million subscribers.
What started as an idea to help viewers stream cricket on their phones turned into this massive entertainment project. Hotstar, a Star India enterprise, has achieved significant success amidst its substandard streaming capabilities. Its success can be accredited to its strategic partnerships which made the app appealing to the youth.
Its partnership with Disney and HBO meant that the company could feature films like ‘Jungle Book’, ‘Finding Dory’, ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Marvel movies’ along with TV Shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘How I Met Your Mother’, ‘Two and a Half Men’, and ‘Silicon Valley’ to name a few.
Hotstar is not a new streaming platform, it began its journey back in 2015. With Over-the-top-media (OTT) rife in the developing country, Star India Pvt. Ltd took the opportunity to take the Indian streaming market by storm. Its most notable partnership started with the Cricket World Cup stream in 2015. Riding on the success of its Sports membership, the streaming platform landed a deal with HBO and was able to provide Game of Thrones telecast in 2017.
Its Game of Thrones partnership catapulted it into mainstream success. In 2017, Hotstar was five times more popular than the second streaming service in India i.e. Amazon Prime with nearly 12 million users followed by Netflix with around 5 million users.
Hotstar – A Success Story
The reason why Hotstar became the largest OTT service provider of TV Shows, Sports and Movies in India can be understood through the following points:
– 100,000+ hours of content spread across big banner movies, sports, news, and TV shows
– Streaming in up to 8 regional languages ranging from Hindi, Bengali, Marathi and Gujarati to Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada and Telegu.
– 8-10 million viewers per day with over 100 million app downloads
– Increase Ad revenues mainly due to network goodwill since the past 20 years on traditional television networks
– Ground-breaking partnerships with production houses across the world
Even after such a sturdy presence in the streaming industry, chances are that you might have never heard of Hotstar. That’s because it’s only available in a few South-Asian countries. These include India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. Though the streaming giant is working towards making the app global with content from around the world, it has a lot of catching up to do on a global front due to cut-throat competition from streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Should you try Hotstar?
First, I’d like to tell you that streaming services are super cheap in India. You can access platforms such as Hotstar and Amazon Prime for under $14.99/per year. Thus, if you know how to use a VPN or can seek someone’s help to complete the payment, you can actively stream Hotstar from anywhere around the world.
As a streamer just wanted to consume English content, you’d still have a decent chunk of the pie waiting for you. From popular TV shows such as ‘MasterChef Australia’ to currently trending, ‘Modern Family’, you can stream almost anything. All of HBO’s content is available along with exclusive content from National Geographic.
Design & User Interface
Compare Hotstar’s interface with Netflix and Hulu, you’d be disappointed. Compare it with Amazon Prime Video, you’ll feel better. On a personal note, I’m satisfied with its interface but given the fact that I’m an avid Netflix viewer, it does irritate me sometimes.
Simple green and white color combination flows throughout the website. The design is subtle at most. However, I do like the content segregation. Searching content is not much of a task on Hotstar than what it used to be two years ago. You can search anything you want in the search bar, and if you’re in for a random viewing experience then it does have curated playlists to meet your taste.
Simple interface comprising of content placed horizontally with content title and thumbnail. The homepage features banners showcasing fresh content, generally, live events. Followed by that, you get recommendation windows with album art of up to 7 shows. Right under that is a customized playlist categorized by genres and content format.
There are five main categories – TV, Movies, Sports, News and Premium followed by a search panel on the right. Three of the five main categories have a drop-down menu. Let’s learn about each of these categories:
– TV – List of TV channels primarily from Star Network along with Hotstar Originals
– Movies – Categorized based upon 9 languages
– Sports – 14 subcategories including Football, Cricket, Formula 1, Badminton, eSports, Table Tennis, Hockey, Martial Arts, Athletics, Tennis, Kabaddi, Swimming, Boxing and Water Sports
– News – Doesn’t have a drop-down menu but upon clicking, you get access to news from around the world from channels such as Republic TV, India Today, Sky News, Bloomberg Quint, Fox News, and Aaj Tak to name a few
– Premium – Similar to the News category, the premium category doesn’t have a drop-down menu but rather a plethora of premium content including the ‘Avengers Universe Playlist’, ‘Freshly Added Movies’, ‘Upcoming Movies’, ‘Golden Globe 2020 Nominees’ and ‘Trending This Month’.
On the extreme left, you can find three horizontal lines that represent the browsing category. When you click on it, it offers a drop-down menu with options such as Home, TV, Movies, Sports, News, Premium, Channels, Language and Genres.
The Hotstar app is owned by Novi Digital Entertainment Private Ltd, viz., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Start India Pvt. Ltd. The latter is one of the most celebrated entertainment content creators in India for the past two decades if not more. With a vast content library spanning over 100,000+ hours of content, you can see why this streaming website is loved by people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Hotstar’s most underrated offering is its Originals. But honestly, they are nowhere near the high standards set by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video Originals. Some of the well-known originals include ‘AIB’s ON AIR’, ‘One Tip One Hand’ and ‘M Bole Toh’. Evidently, its originals aren’t its biggest strength and it’s certainly not an aspect you’d drool over.
One thing that Hotstar does have is quantity. Not just premium content but free as well. Some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters fall under the free content category which has led users to download this app. Popular Bollywood blockbusters such as ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, ‘Jolly LLB 2’, ‘Golmaal Series’ and ‘Bahubali 2’ have attracted Indian audience’s attention in the past few years.
As for the audience seeking English TV series and movies, there’s plenty in store for you as well. You can watch shows like ‘Modern Family’, ‘Westworld’, ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘How I Met Your Mother’, ‘Prison Break’, ‘Ballers’, ‘Silicon Valley, ‘Two and a Half Men’, ‘Sex and the City’, ‘Prison Break’, ‘True Detective’ and ‘Sex and the City’. For movies, you can choose from titles such as ‘Deadpool’, ‘X-Men Apocalypse’, ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’, ‘Avengers Series’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘The Martial’ and ‘Zootopia’ to name a few.
You can access the Hotstar app from the browser as well as the app. One thing that I dislike about this app is that it doesn’t have a cross-device sync feature. Thus, you cannot carry on where you left. Though the app is available across and Android and iOS, its streaming capabilities is not something I can write home about.
Many Indians rely on a 4G data connection with up to 1-2 GB data allowance to stream TV and most of them have shown their distaste towards the app because of the large data that it consumes. The very reason why 4K isn’t yet a thing in India.
Even if you want to stream at 1080p at 4G connection, that’s going to a big challenge due to the limited allowance. Thus, the most stable quality you can enjoy the stream at is HD 720p. If you’re watching it from outside of India, you can enjoy stream quality of Full HD 1080p which is the maximum the app has to offer.
Hotstar’s streaming strength is that it allows you to stream at 240p as well. Thus, even with 2G data speed, you can still watch the shows at a compromised quality. Similar to YouTube, it has a 10-second replay button, which you can use to fast-forward or backtrack your videos. Captions that weren’t available during the initial years have now been included.
Plans & Pricing
Here’s where Hotstar wins the online streaming sector in India. Its pricing is quite similar to Amazon Prime which is around $14.99/year but the amount of content value you get is truly amazing. While most streaming websites around the world, require you to shell out between $8-$30/per month, Hotstar provides an entire year of premium content for just under $15. Mind-boggling, Isn’t it?
Not just that, similar to other streaming services, it also offers the chance to cancel the subscription at any time you want. Also, you can enjoy the free trial for one month – a standard offering across all streaming sites.
As for Plans and Pricing, Hotstar has a two-tier system – VIP ($6.99/year) and Premium ($14.99/year). Its VIP plan provides access to major sports content along with few Hotstar specials whilst the Premium plan follows the eat-all-you-can model making the entire content library accessible for its members.