STAR India owned video streaming service Hotstar will make content from Showtime available on their paid subscription service. The deal with Showtime parent CBS Corporation covers streaming video, on-demand content licensing and a trademark agreement for Showtime in India. Content which will be provided on Hotstar Premium includes existing shows like ‘The Affair’, ‘Billions’, ‘Ray Donovan’, and the recently launch ‘I’m dying here’. We checked and ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘I’m Dying up here’ are already available under Hotstar Premium. Upcoming shows include ‘Smilf’ and ‘Escape at Dannemore’. Hotstar Premium is available for Rs 199 per month.

The announcement, strangely, makes no mention of two of Showtime’s major hits: Californication and Shameless, both of which have decidedly 18+ content, and aren’t available on the platform (Shameless and Californication are on Prime Video and Netflix). Then again, Hotstar does show Game Of Thrones uncensored, and claims content on Premium is “Uncut, Ad-free & Minutes after America.” We’ve written to STAR for a clarification on two things: whether these two shows — Californication and Shameless — will be shown in India, and whether Showtime Original Movies are also included in this deal.

Unlike Netflix and Amazon Prime, which charge for access to content, Hotstar has taken a freemium approach: some of the content (for example, premium movies and premium TV shows) are behind a paywall, while the rest is available for free. With multiple channels being streamed, including sports, general entertainment and news, and a large library of content, and over 250 million app downloads, Hotstar has addressed one part of the funnel: of acquiring viewers. Whether that will convert into a substantial user base that pays for a selection of shows, remains to be seen. Hotstar now has exclusive content partnerships in India with Disney, Fox, HBO, and now Showtime.

Two points

1. We’ve seen two interesting experiments in the content streaming space in the recent past: Firstly, one from Zee, which made its Ditto TV service available at a subscription fee of Rs 20 per month, and was approaching streaming from an advertising perspective. The second is from Balaji Telefilms’ ALT Balaji, which focused on original content, and made the first few episodes of each show free. This meant that if someone watched the first three episodes of a show, they were more likely to pay a subscription fee to watch the remaining episodes.

2. The pain-point being created for consumers now, though is that content is being split across multiple service providers. Online streaming is doing in India what DTH was never allowed to do: make some content (in the case of DTH channels) exclusive. The regulator has made it mandatory for a channel to be made available on DTH in India, and this was largely the outcome of the situation many years ago, wherein STAR (News Corp) channels were not available on (Zee owned) Dish TV, and Zee channels were not available on Tata Sky, a joint venture between the Tata group and STAR TV. Online video providers are the new DTH services, in a manner of speaking. Content being spread across different providers means that the cost for consumers, to watch all that content, is bound to go up.