Digital streaming platform Hotstar has announced a subscription tier just for viewing for live sports programmes. This comes on the back of Star India securing broadcast rights for the Indian Premier League. The tournament will be simulcast on both Star Sports and Hotstar, which means that the digital platform will not be receiving a delayed feed, like previous years.

As part of the offer, Hotstar will include cricket (IPL 2018, Asia Cup 2018), football (Premier League, Bundesliga, I-League, Indian Super League, AFC Cup), tennis (Wimbledon, French Open, US Open), kabaddi (Pro Kabaddi, Kabaddi Nationals), and others (Formula 1, Badminton World Championships) for an annual fee of Rs 299. This plan is cheaper than Hotstar’s Premium offering which costs Rs 999 annually.

Siladitya adds: Star India is amongst the bidders looking to acquire the broadcast right to all international games played in India, starting with Afghanistan’s tour of India in June. If Star were to acquire the rights for these matches they could further beef up the offering for this sports only subscription service.

Further, the streaming platform has partnered Airtel and Jio to provide the IPL live feed free. Non-Airtel and Jio customers will be able to see 10 minutes of live IPL free only.

Notably, this is the first time access to one particular category of content (sports) has been restricted with a subscription.

In a bid to monetise the IPL, Hotstar also recently launched a self-service ad tool to facilitate photo and video ad campaigns. “Hotstar AdServe” will allow small and medium-sized companies to advertise on its platform. The tool is currently available in a beta version and opens advertising for IPL, for which Star recently acquired broadcasting rights. The tournament, starting April 7, will be available in 6 Indian languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali on Hotstar. The tool offers regional players an opportunity to scout for new markets nationally at affordable prices, Hotstar says. Ad buying options on Hotstar AdServe allow targeted communication by language and team.

It remains unclear if ads will still be shown now that the sports offering is subscription-based.

Nikhil adds: One thing that Hotstar would have had going for it, was to use streaming of sports as a gateway to discovery of Hotstar content. Subsequently, subscription of sports streaming would have been a gateway to a larger subscription plan. So, why is Hotstar carving out sports streaming here? Is there pressure to improve revenue?