Disney+ Hotstar President and Head of Disney+ Hotstar spoke at the Asia Video Industry Association’s Future of Video India event. This article is based on remarks he made from his session during the event.
Piracy has been an issue for Hotstar, its president and head Sunil Rayan said in a session at the Asia Video Industry Association’s Future of Video India event on April 29. So much so, people have been arrested by police following complaints by the Disney-owned streaming service to the police.
Streaming services overall are still nascent in India, Rayan said in the interaction, and added that regulation of streaming platforms shouldn’t hamper their growth.
Early adopter phase
“Having been in the throes of OTT, at least in the last year, I and I think a lot of my colleagues genuinely believe we are in the early days, very early days of OTT, even though it’s had tremendous growth in the last five years or so,” Rayan said. “If you think about growth stages, you have initially the early adopters, the people who have a little bit of a global exposure, they’re looking for unique types of content. We are in that phase right now. And if fast forward that, OK, what’s the next stage? We believe the next stage would be building a product for India, like building for India, which is a product that works in India, the pricing that works in India and the content that works in India.”
- Scratching the surface: “We’re just scratching the surface there. And a lot of this is driven primarily with the tremendous telecom boom that we’ve had in the last three to four years. And a lot of people are watching videos on mobile phones. I feel like that’s the next stage. That’s if you think about the smartphone universe, about four hundred million or so in India right now. But to get to these people with smartphones, the product needs to be far more localized,” Rayan said.
- “Rurban” audiences not enough: “And still, we will go to an urban audience and maybe go to the suburbs. If you think about ‘rurban’, as we call it, which is in the middle of rural and urban, that’s still not the end for us. We also feel like there’s another half a billion people that are in rural areas that still have 2G phones that still are on linear television. In fact, some of them don’t even have television,” Rayan said. “To penetrate those markets and to move those people into the digital spectrum, that’s going to take even more localization. It’s going to take new types of devices, new types of technology that’s going to reach them. It’s going to be far more regionalized and localized in like local languages. And basically, the deeper that we go in, we will also need to have more and more diverse content, because the deeper you go and the penetration, people have different preferences.”
Hotstar was built to “be leaner on the wire”
Hotstar “was built to be leaner on the wire. It was built to scale. I mean, if you look at the technology that was also built behind us, we basically stripped it down right to the lowest level and say, how do we build it to get the experience with people being in very low speed mobile services,” Rayan said.
- Individual viewing content should be more engaging: “The type of content that we will exclusively put on OTT should be far more engaging [than broadcast content], it should be for individual viewing,” Rayan said. Hotstar hasn’t yet invested as heavily into such content.
Sports is crucial
When asked about the importance of sports, Rayan said, “It is critical, even though we’ve expanded into other areas. And specifically to your [the interviewer’s] question on IPL, I mean, I feel it is a great asset for us,” Rayan said.
- Microtransactions on streaming? “I come a little bit from a gaming background, which has got a lot of micro transactions as well. You can clearly see a lot of that coming. I think that there will be a lot of social that will be integrated in the experience,” Rayan said, roughly outlining innovations that remained to be done for streaming.
Regulation should support the industry
“I think it’s critical that regulation supports the growth and in fact, enhances the growth. So we you know, we completely respect that the that the regulators need to protect both the industry and the consumers. But at the same time, I hope we don’t lose focus on growth and value creation in the industry,” Rayan said.
- Create ecosystem for global consumption of Indian content: “The fact is that content can be created anywhere and can be exported anywhere in the world. It’s pretty awesome. And I’d love to see, for example, in India, we create an ecosystem where we can export a lot of the content that we create and make our content creators basically be set up on a global platform. So, you know, while I completely respect, you know, regulation coming in to protect the industry and consumers, I think I think we also feel like there’s a responsibility to make our creators in India be accessible to the world’s population, which means how do you facilitate that growth?”
Direct relationships with Twitch, Discord for piracy
“We’ve got relationships now set up with the with all the platforms of the world, whether it’s YouTube, Twitch, Discord, etc, to make sure that we can we have a direct line to them saying, hey, this is something that’s copyrighted that people are broadcasting. We actually have teams focused on the large platforms and we really collaborate with each of those vendors,” Rayan said. “We’ve given police complaints and police have gone and arrested those people.”