Hotstar bets big on AIB

By Shweta Mulki , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | October 30, 2015
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"Our consumers are not the dip-and-dissolve kinds": Ajit Mohan, Star India.

Star India's digital platform Hotstar saw the launch of its new original series 'On Air with AIB,' on Thursday. The property, which is satirical in content, will initially have 10 episodes each in Hindi and English. On television, the Hindi version will appear on Star Plus, and the English one on Star World, both on Sunday nights, at 10 pm. The episodes are of 20-30 minutes duration, with Hotstar showcasing the longer one.

On Air with AIB

Ajit Mohan

Speaking on the idea behind the show, Ajit Mohan, executive vice-president and head, digital, Star India, says, "The idea for 'On Air with AIB' was for it to be a Hotstar original show. We know our Hotstar audience is and this is the target audience for AIB as well. In the last few months since we've launched, we've seen that AIB has a massive following. It's an audience that is very young and very urban at the moment. Moreover, we saw a huge gap in the kind of space where a satire like 'On air with AIB' could come in."

He adds, "Our consumers spend a lot of time on the platform everyday. It's a very different kind of behaviour compared to what has been seen on digital or video streaming till date. Most loyal users spend almost 90 minutes a day."

Mohan refuses to talk costs, but says, "No one has done a show like this at this scale, and at this level of thoughtfulness and depth."

Though it was conceived as a Hotstar original, based on the preferences of its consumers, Mohan says that television will completely expand the audience for brand AIB and the show. AIB has been one of the biggest content creators online, so between Hotstar and Star Plus along with Star World, there will be a much larger audience for them across platforms.

The Hindi and English versions will be shot separately. According to Mohan, the two shows will be independently produced, with completely different episodes. He adds, "The Hindi and English episodes will address the same issues, but it will be like watching two different shows." Hotstar will offer both the Hindi and English versions.

Star has carried out an extensive marketing campaign including OOH and a TVC, and the makers claim that the awareness about the show has shot up over the last week. Mohan adds they will continue to aggressively market the show in the next few weeks.

Speaking on the content strategy for the platform overall, Mohan says, "Our content plan is very visible and transparent and we have a massive portfolio of content across genres and languages. There's enough evidence for us to continue following our plan."

Mohan says that the success of Hotstar has overturned the view that India was not ready for streaming content, or for a premium OTT platform. "When we introduced Hotstar, it was a destination for premium content and our effort will be to dramatically improve that experience. We have a newer and a much more user-friendly version coming in for android users," says Mohan.

Adding that product and technology will be their big focus, Mohan explains, "The more people have access to good quality and affordable data, the more will it do good for Hotstar and good for the ecosystem in general. On the technology front, we are focussed on improving content discovery on our platform, and improving the video streaming for all kinds of mobile users. We want to make sure we have content for users across geographies and preferences."

Hotstar has crossed 35 million downloads since its launch in February this year, and advertising remains the main avenue of monetisation for the platform. "We have more than 100 advertisers. They have observed that users are showing deep engagement for premium content, and it's not a dip-and-dissolve behaviour," says Mohan.

When asked about the big learning in the last few months, Mohan replies, "It is great to see that in a country where data is fairly expensive, the appetite for consuming on-demand premium content is quite high. We are optimistic that growth will get much more dramatic."

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