Hotstar is consumer-driven, not competition-driven: Nikhil Madhok, Hotstar

Nikhil Madhok, EVP & Head of Original Content, Hotstar, talks about the launch of Hotstar Specials, growth of original content, how IPL helped the surge in viewership, and self-regulation

Nikhil Madhok Hotstar

Touted as one of the most visited Over-the-Top platforms, Star India’s Hotstar on Wednesday launched their fourth new web series named ‘Hostages’ under their new vertical called Hotstar Specials. The crime thriller will stream from May 31. exchange4 media caught up with Nikhil Madhok EVP and Head of Original Content, Hotstar, to know more about the strategy behind the launch of Hotstar Specials, the growth of original content, how IPL helped the surge in viewership and censorship of content.

Raving on the success of recently launched web series such as Roar of the lion, City of Dreams and Criminal Justice, Hotstar believes that the new web series – Hostages would be well-received.

Speaking at the launch, Madhok said, “This particular show is one we are really excited about. We were waiting for the time to launch the show and hope that the series would achieve accolades the way Criminal Justice, achieved.”

The digital space is ever evolving with originals seeming to be ruling the roost for consumers, Hotstar has upped their game in terms of providing original content. Smashing all previous records and being at the top of the game, with the Indian premier league (IPL) this year, in a matter of one month, Hotstar managed to clock from 150 million users to 300 million in the month of April.

Madhok said the Indian Premier League (IPL) was very well received. We had a viewership of 150 million before IPL which rose to 300 million by the end of April. Hence, IPL has been a tremendous success for Hotstar.

When asked whether IPL’s success helped Hotstar Specials in terms of original content being played on the OTT platform, Madhok pointed out, “IPL has helped a lot in terms of getting more consumers on board and especially for Hotstar VIP and Hotstar Specials. Both in terms of the number of viewers who consume this content and the number of people who become subscribers of Hotstar VIP. However, I would like to point out, that Criminal Justice became a major hit. If you look purely at numbers, CJ has crossed all and stood out.”

Quashing Hotstar being called a late entrant in comparison to other local and global players in OTT industry in providing originals, Madhok said what Hotstar is delivering in a year post launch of Hotstar special and Hotstar VIP is more than what its competitors are delivering. He says, “Hotstar has always considered its programmes as original content. Our endeavour with specials was different with Hotstar specials because we wanted to ready ourselves for digital screens and we wanted to create content primarily for mobile phones and as a result, doesn’t have formats or restrictions. As we started on March 20, one new Hotstar special every four to six weeks for the first few months would be streamed. And later we ramped up to do one launch every month. Therefore, even if we look at the year, we would launch six to eight originals every year which would be more than what our competitors are doing.”

Speaking about how Hotstar would deal with competitors when it comes to originals, Madhok said that Hotstar is a consumer-driven and not a competition-driven online platform. “For Hotstar we don’t create content for competition but for our consumers-what do they like and what they want to see."

Elaborating more on the ad revenue model for their OTT platform, Madhok said that from advertising growth perspective Hotstar has been growing exponentially since its launch back in 2015. “We are in a good position, our advertising revenues are growing, more and more brands are moving spends in Hotstar digital. We are also able to drive people from free viewership to premium viewership, and new subscription for Hotstar VIP is growing.”

Although Madhok declined to comment on the new e-commerce regulatory policy by TRAI for OTT players, he underlined how Hotstar is sticking to its self-regulatory policy.

When asked whether is it the right time to regulate the space since more originals are coming to online video platforms, he pointed out that, Hotstar along with other OTT players had recently signed a pact for self-regulation and they intended to stick to that. “We don’t look for the content which is heavily sleazy or pornographic or anything provocative. We are focussing on compelling drama. Being a responsible company, we are thoughtful and careful in the selection of our content,” before he signs off.

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