AVOD for scale, SVOD for premium experience: Gaurav Banerjee on Hotstar strategy

Gaurav Banerjee, President & Head - Hindi GEC, Star India
Gaurav Banerjee, President & Head - Hindi GEC, Star India

Launched in January this year, Hotstar Specials, the ambitious content foray from Hotstar, has been featuring shows from India’s most acclaimed storytellers. Hotstar Specials has seen the launch of Originals such as ‘MS Dhoni – Roar of the Lion’, ‘Criminal Justice’, ‘The Office’, ‘Hostages’ and now a drama series called ‘Out Of Love’, which will be launched on November 22, 2019. All the series have been launched with much fanfare. 

During Diwali this year, Hotstar Specials launched digital-first films such as a dark comedy, ‘Chhappad Phaad Ke’. 


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For its first set of Hotstar Specials, Star India has partnered with Shekhar Kapur, Neeraj Pandey, Kabir Khan, Nikkhil Advani, Ram Madhvani, Venkat Prabhu, Sudhir Mishra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nagesh Kukunoor, Mahesh Manjrekar, Vishal Furia, Rohan Sippy, Debbie Rao, Sharad Devarajan and Salman Khan. 

The platform is available in several regional languages, including Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi. According to media reports, Hotstar has a user base of more than 300 million monthly active users and has grown 4x since 2017. 

Continuing with its promise of providing “bold and authentic” stories, Hotstar Specials’ latest offering – ‘Out Of Love’ – is a drama series that explores the emotional and psychological dilemma that erupts from complex relationships; and raises the key question – when faced with infidelity, would you Forgive, Forget or Fight? The series stars Rasika Dugal and Purab Kohli in the lead roles and has been directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Aijaz Khan. ‘Out Of Love’ has been produced by BBC Studios India and is an official adaptation of British show, ‘Doctor Foster’. 

Commenting on the partnership, Sameer Gogate, Business Head, BBC Studio-India, told Adgully, “We’ve been in the market for 10 years in India with shows like ‘Jhalak Dikhla Jaa’, which was adapted from the original show ‘Dancing with the Stars’. We’ve been working with Star for many years and it has been a great association. ‘Criminal Justice’ opened the gateway for BBC formats in this country. Original content takes a lot of time to make and produce. That’s why some companies prefer to go for established formats with a good structure, as the hard work is already done and it is easier.” 

Elaborating on the content strategy for Hotstar Specials, Gaurav Banerjee, President & Head - Hindi GEC, Star India, said, “Since March we’ve been focusing on having a variety of original content and having a huge range of stories. From day one, we have wanted to explore themes that are rare and had begun the journey with ‘MS Dhoni - Roar of the Lion’, which was a docudrama series. We then went on to shows like ‘The Office’, ‘Criminal Justice’ and ‘Hostages’. With a plethora of content, we want to provide something to everyone to watch on the platform.” 

Further, talking about the new series ‘Out Of Love’, Banerjee said that the show is different as it focuses on the female protagonist in a strong and mature way, which hasn’t been done yet in the streaming world. 

OTT has grown tremendously as an industry in India. With the less than 15 players in the market in 2012, the OTT industry today consists of 32 players, with the growth spurred by cheap data services and affordable smartphones. 

Banerjee called this “exciting times” and added that the increase in mobile users has created an explosion in screens and convenience for the consumer when it comes to content. He further mentioned that “This is changing consumer behaviour in an interesting way. People can choose when to watch and how much they want to watch. It also drives variety in content as many people consume OTT content alone. A lot of investments are also being done that is driving the industry by driving good content.” 

A lot of this also comes with the growth of regional content consumers. According to a Google-KPMG report, Indian regional language user base is expected to grow to 536 million by 2021. However, Hotstar doesn’t believe in a national or regional strategy. “We have a content strategy,” maintained Banerjee, adding further, “We are focusing on good content and quality stories and are putting it out in several languages for everyone to enjoy.” He further said, “We are also building content in various languages like Tamil, Kannada, etc.” 

Hotstar is available to users in both AVOD and SVOD models, which Banerjee said, “work great for us”. He further pointed out that while AVOD is huge for them and had a massive scale, SVOD is different as it allowed them to provide the consumer with a more premium experience. 

Facing stiff competition from international players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, along with homegrown platforms like ZEE5 and ALTBalaji, Hotstar Specials is looking to bank on the legacy of Star India in the content business in India. Differentiation of content has become an important strategy for OTT players in India.


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