Hotstar

Hotstar (also known as Disney+ Hotstar[lower-alpha 2]) is an Indian brand of subscription video on-demand over-the-top streaming service operated by Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, a division of The Walt Disney Company.

Disney+ Hotstar
Logo for the Disney+ Hotstar service.
Screenshot
Type of site
OTT video streaming platform
Country of originIndia
Area servedIndia, United Kingdom, North America and parts of Southeast Asia
(version may differ)
(see full list)
OwnerStar India
PresidentSunil Rayan
ParentDisney Media and Entertainment Distribution
URLhotstar.com
RegistrationRequired[lower-alpha 1]
Users 38 million (paid; as of 2 July 2021)[1]
300 million active users (May 2020)[2]
Launched11 February 2015 (2015-02-11)
Current statusActive

The brand was first introduced and owned by Star India as a streaming service carrying content from its local networks, including films, television series, live sports, and original programming, as well as featuring content licensed from third-parties such as HBO and Showtime among others. Amid the significant growth of mobile broadband in India, Hotstar quickly became the dominant streaming service in the country.

Following the acquisition of Star India's parent company 21st Century Fox by Disney in 2019, Hotstar was integrated with the company's new global streaming brand Disney+ as Disney+ Hotstar in April 2020. The co-branded service added Disney+ original programming, and films and television series from its main content brands of Walt Disney Studios, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and National Geographic alongside the domestic and third-party content already carried on the platform.

Outside of India, the Disney+ Hotstar service also operates in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, which similarly combines entertainment content licensed from local, third-party studios, with the larger Disney+ library. Disney+ Hotstar is also expected to launch in the Philippines in 2021. In Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States, Hotstar operates as a streaming service targeting overseas Indians, focusing on Star India's domestic entertainment and sports content (Disney+ operates as a standalone service in these markets).

History

First Hotstar logo from 2015 until 2020.

Star India officially launched Hotstar on 11 February 2015 after fifteen months of development, coinciding with the 2015 Cricket World Cup and upcoming 2015 Indian Premier League (for which Star had acquired the streaming rights). The ad-supported service initially featured a library of over 35,000 hours of content in seven regional languages, as well as live streaming coverage of sports such as football and kabaddi, and cricket on a delay. Star CEO Sanjay Gupta felt that there "[weren't] many platforms available to Indian consumers offering high-quality, curated content besides, say, YouTube", and explained that the service would appeal most prominently to the growing young adult demographic, and feature "very targeted" advertising. He estimated that by 2020, the service could account for nearly a quarter of Star's annual revenue.[3][4]

In April 2016, Hotstar launched a subscription tier primarily oriented towards international content and the possibility of premium sports content. The service launched alongside a new deal to carry HBO content uncut on the platform, with its introduction coinciding with the season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones.[5]

The 2016 launch of the LTE-only wireless carrier Jio spurred the growth of mobile broadband in India, and was credited in turn for having bolstered the growth of streaming video in the country. While services of US origin such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix saw some growth in the Indian market, Hotstar has remained the dominant streaming service.[6] By July 2017, Hotstar's apps had reached 300 million downloads, and it was reported as being the top video streaming app in the country.[7][8]

In May 2018, it was reported that the service had 75100 million active users per-month.[9] In September 2018, Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan left to become the vice-president and managing director of Facebook India.[10] That month, it was reported that the service had begun to restructure its leadership to have separate executives for its ad-supported and premium services, and, aided by new funding from Star US Holdings, planned to increase its production of premium original content to better-compete with Amazon and Netflix, amidst concerns that the service was beginning to haemorrhage cash.[11]

By 2019, the service had over 150 million active users monthly. In March 2019, ahead of the 2019 Indian Premier League, Hotstar migrated existing subscribers of its All Annual Sports plan to a new entry-level plan known as Hotstar VIP. Intended as an introductory option, it includes access to sports content (including the IPL, 2019 Cricket World Cup, and English Premier League football), early access to serials before their television broadcast, and original series from the new Hotstar Specials banner. It is also payable via cash. Chief product officer Varun Narang described the offering as "a value proposition built with the Indian audience at the heart of it".[12]

Acquisition by Disney, integration with Disney+

Star, and in turn Hotstar, were acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2019, as part of its acquisition of their US parent company 21st Century Fox.[13][14]

During a February 2020 earnings call, Iger announced that its recently launched international streaming brand Disney+ and its original programming would be integrated into Hotstar as part of a re-launch on 29 March 2020. Iger stated that the service's launch,—originally scheduled to coincide with the opening of the 2020 Indian Premier League, would take advantage of Hotstar's "proven platform" and existing customer base. The Motley Fool described Hotstar as being Disney's "secret weapon" in the market, due to its already-dominant position.[15][13][14]

Hotstar began to soft launch the expanded service for some users in March. On 20 March 2020, in recognition of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated postponement of the IPL season, Disney announced that it had postponed the launch to 3 April.[16][17] The service officially launched with a "virtual red carpet premiere" of The Lion King and Disney+ series The Mandalorian, featuring actors Rana Daggubati, Katrina Kaif, Shraddha Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, and Tiger Shroff participating in live interactions.[18] The price of the Hotstar Premium service was also increased with the launch.[19]

On 2 May, Star announced that it would distribute the service for free to migrant workers in Singapore through 21 July, to improve morale amid their impact from COVID-19.[20] In June 2020, Hotstar named Sunil Rayan, formerly of Google, as its new president.[21]

Content

India

Hotstar subscription plans in India

The Disney+ Hotstar VIP subscription is oriented towards domestic content, including series from Star's Indian-language television networks and the Hotstar Specials banner, early access to Star's Indian television serial programs before their television premiere, cricket coverage, Premier League football from the United Kingdom,[22][23][24] and access to content from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.[18] The Disney+ Hotstar Premium tier adds access to international films and series, including Disney+ original programming and the core Disney+ libraries of The Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Television, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm (including the Star Wars franchise), and National Geographic,[18][19] with select titles for general entertainment from Disney subsidiaries including FX, Freeform, Hulu, ABC Signature, 20th Television, 20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, and Hollywood Pictures, in addition to licensed content from third-party providers.[22][23][24]

Some early original content on the service included the news comedy program On Air With AIB, and CinePlay. In March 2019, the service launched a new premium original content brand, Hotstar Specials, with the first production being Roar of the Lion—a docudrama miniseries chronicling the Chennai Super Kings in the 2018 Indian Premier League. Hotstar stated that these series would be at least six episodes in length, be available in seven regional languages (Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu)[25] and focus on providing "big-scale, high-quality drama". Hotstar partnered with a large number of Indian filmmakers to produce series for the brand.[26][27][28]

In December 2015, Hotstar gained domestic streaming rights to current and past HBO original series, as part of Star's larger deal with the network.[29] It reached a similar deal with Showtime in July 2017.[30] Rights to new Showtime content later moved to Viacom18's Voot (a sister of Showtime via parent company ViacomCBS).[31]

In October 2018, Hotstar partnered with Hooq to offer its content on its premium service, including rights to films and series from its co-owners Sony Pictures and Warner Bros., as well as its other content partners.[32] The partnership ended following Hooq's liquidation in April 2020.[33]

In June 2020, Hotstar announced that it would begin to offer direct-to-streaming premieres of Indian films under the "Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex" banner due to COVID-19-related cinema closures, beginning with Fox Star Studios' Dil Bechara on 24 July 2020, followed by The Big Bull, Lootcase, Khuda Haafiz, Laxmii, Bhuj: The Pride of India, Sadak 2, and Mookuthi Amman.[34]

Southeast Asia (excluding Singapore)

In addition to content from Disney's library, the Southeast Asian versions of Disney+ Hotstar also had a large focus on domestic acquisitions. In Indonesia, Hotstar reached content supply agreements with studios such as Falcon Pictures, MD Pictures, Rapi Films, Soraya Intercine Films, Screenplay Films, and Starvision Plus among others, and also acquired first-run direct-to-streaming releases (which are being marketed as Hotstar Originals). To appeal to the local Hindu population, the service also carries Bollywood films subtitled and/or dubbed into the Indonesian language.[35][36]

The Malaysian version of the service has similarly reached deals with studios such as Primeworks Studios, Les' Copaque Production and Animonsta Studios to carry films on the platform, with some being released direct-to-streaming.[37]

The Thai version reached agreements with studios and broadcasters such as GDH, GMM 25, Kantana Group, One 31, and Sahamongkolfilm, and has licensed content from other East Asian regions such as Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.[38][39]

Device support and service features

Hotstar is available for streaming via supported web browsers on PC, Mac, and smartphones, as well as apps on Apple iOS devices and Apple TV, Android mobile devices and Android TV, with regional support for devices such as Roku in Canada, United States and United Kingdom, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung smart TVs in India, Canada, United States and United Kingdom, and LG webOS TVs in India, Canada, United States, and Malaysia.

Hotstar allows users to stream on two devices concurrently and downloads for offline viewing depending on individual content licenses. Most content is able to be streamed in resolutions up to 1080p. In April 2020, Hotstar started rolling out Dolby Digital 5.1 sound on Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV, [40] and later 4K Ultra HD in Dolby Vision and HDR10 in August 2020 only on Apple TV and Android TV, noting that Dolby Vision and HDR10 will be available for mobile devices later, which were made available for iOS since May 2021.[41] In India, the service is operated as both a free ad-supported service, and two subscription-based tiers. The ad-supported service includes access to selected Indian films and Star series after their television broadcast.

Starting 1 September 2021, Indian users will be able to choose from a range of three new subscription plans, namely – Mobile for INR 499/- per year (a single device, mobile-only plan), Super for INR 899/- per year (access to 2 devices across mobile, web and living room devices) and Premium for INR 1499/- per year (access to 4 devices across mobile, web and living room devices).[42]

Launch

On 4 September 2017, Star Sports acquired the entirety of the media rights to the Indian Premier League, with Hotstar acting as the international digital rightsholder. The service served worldwide until Hotstar launched an international subscription service in Canada and the United States, aimed towards providing its domestic Indian content and sports.[43][44] Hotstar launched in the United Kingdom on 13 September 2018, to coincide with the 2018 Asia Cup.[45] On 4 January 2019, Star discontinued their international linear pay television channels in the US. (such as StarPlus), pivoting its focus in the region to Hotstar.[46]

In August 2019, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that plans were in place for expansion of Hotstar into Southeast Asia.[47] In August 2020, it was announced that Disney+ Hotstar would launch in Indonesia on 5 September 2020, marking the unified service's first expansion outside of India.[48] On 19 October 2020, Star India announced the launch of Hotstar in Singapore, which took place on 1 November 2020.[49] On 25 February 2021, it was reported that Disney+ Hotstar would launch in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand in 2021.[50] The service launched in Malaysia on 1 June 2021,[51] and Thailand on 30 June.[52]

On 27 July 2021, it was reported that Hotstar original content would likely be licensed to streaming services Hulu in United States, Star in Canada, Europe and parts of Asia Pacific, and Star+ in Latin America in the future.[53]

  Available as Disney+ Hotstar
  Available as Hotstar
  Confirmed launch
  Third-party distribution
Launch as Disney+ Hotstar
Release Date Country/Territory Release Partner
 India None
5 September 2020[48]  Indonesia Telkomsel
1 June 2021[51]  Malaysia Astro
30 June 2021[52]  Thailand AIS[38]
2021[50]  Philippines
Launch as Hotstar
Release Date Country/Territory Release Partner
4 September 2017[44]  Canada None
 United States
13 September 2018[45]  United Kingdom
1 November 2020[49]  Singapore StarHub

Viewership

Hotstar generated at least 340 million views throughout the 2015 Cricket World Cup, and over 200 million during the 2015 Indian Premier League season.[54][55]

The 2019 Indian Premier League repeatedly broke records for concurrent viewership on Hotstar, with the 2019 final setting a new "global record" peak of 18.6 million. US website TechCrunch credited these gains to the extensive growth of internet usage in the country.[56] This was surpassed during the semi-final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup between India and New Zealand, with 25.3 million. After the India-Pakistan match earlier in the tournament, Hotstar surpassed 100 million daily users.[57]

Censorship

The HBO series Last Week Tonight faced several instances of censorship on Hotstar since the purchase of the service by Disney; two episodes were edited to remove jokes referencing Disney characters, including a November 2019 episode on the US census relating to a PSA featuring Mickey Mouse (where Oliver claimed the character was a "crack addict"; a scene was also cropped to obscure a graphic relating to the joke),[58] and a remark about Donald Duck's penis being "shaped like a corkscrew" during an episode discussing China's one-child policy.[59][60] In February 2020, Hotstar refused to carry an episode that contained segments critical of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, which had alleged that his policy of Hindu nationalism was a growing threat to democracy in India.[61][62][63]

The programme's host John Oliver addressed all three instances of censorship by Hotstar in the 8 March 2020 episode. He placed a larger emphasis on the censorship of Disney references, however (alluding to his role of Zazu in Disney's 2019 CGI remake of The Lion King), jokingly arguing that he resented the censorship of his "factually accurate" Donald Duck joke more than the Modi episode being pulled.[59][60]

The service was highly criticized and ridiculed upon the launch in Thailand for the censorship and editing of Disney content, where violent and/or suggestive scenes were cut out or blurred, with a majority of titles being cropped to fit 16:9 widescreen televisions and/or also sped up to 25 frames per second (PAL).[64] On 14 July 2021, during a live podcast hosted by Thai news reporter Jomquan Laopetch, Disney Southeast Asia and Thailand general manager, direct-to-consumer Winradit Kolasastraseni stated that he was aware of the issues and admitted they were the QC team's fault; the service has been replacing censored/edited video files with their original cuts since then.[65]

Notes

  1. Optional in India, but monthly subscription is required to access additional content.
  2. In India and certain Southeast Asian countries
  3. as Hotstar
  4. Rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar

See also

  • Hulu, a sister streaming service owned and operated by Disney for general entertainment content in United States markets.
  • Star, a similar streaming brand used by Disney for general entertainment content in other markets, which is offered within the Disney+ infrastructure.
  • Star+, a similar streaming brand used by Disney for general entertainment content in Latin America markets.

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