Type of site
|Video on demand|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company India|
|Services||On-demand video streaming|
Star India officially launched Hotstar in February 2014 after fifteen months of development, coinciding with the upcoming 2015 Indian Premier League (for which Star had recently 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 [cricket] (on a tape delay of several minutes), football, and kabaddi. 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.
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.
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 international services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix have seen some growth in the Indian market, Hotstar has remained the dominant streaming service. 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.
In September 2017, Star Sports acquired the entirety of the media rights to the Indian Premier League, with Hotstar acting as the international digital rightsholder. Afterward, Hotstar launched an international subscription service in Canada and the United States, aimed towards providing its domestic Indian content and sports. Hotstar launched in the United Kingdom in September 2018, to coincide with the 2018 Asia Cup.
In May 2018, it was reported that the service had 75-100 million active users per-month. In September 2018, Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan left to become the vice-president and managing director of Facebook India. 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 hemorrhage cash.
On January 4, 2019, Star discontinued their international linear pay television channels in the U.S. (such as StarPlus), in order to focus more on marketing the Hotstar service in the market as an alternative.
By 2019, the service had over 150 million active users monthly. In March 2019, ahead of the 2019 Indian Premier League, Hotstar replaced its All Annual Sports plan with 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, access to content from the new Hotstar Specials banner of content, and can be paid for using cash. Chief product officer Varun Narang described the offering as "a value proposition built with the Indian audience at the heart of it". Existing All Annual Sports subscribers were upgraded to VIP at no additional charge.
Star, and in turn Hotstar, were acquired by The Walt Disney Company in 2019, as part of its acquisition of their U.S. parent company 21st Century Fox. In April 2019, Livemint reported that content from Disney's forthcoming subscription service Disney+ will likely be carried by Hotstar in India.
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. U.S. website TechCrunch credited these gains to the extensive growth of internet usage in the country. 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.
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. The 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, and Premier League football from the United Kingdom. The Hotstar Premium tier adds access to premium international films and series, including content from 20th Century Fox, Disney, HBO, and Hooq.
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) and focus on providing "big-scale, high-quality drama". Hotstar partnered with a large number of Indian filmmakers to produce series for the brand.
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. It reached a similar deal with Showtime in July 2017.
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.