Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, Hotstar, an Indian online streaming service, had more than 10 million simultaneous viewers tune in to watch the final match of the 11th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. IPL is a professional Twenty20 competition that has grown to become India's biggest sporting spectacle, and one of the most-attended sports leagues worldwide. By luring fans of the sport, Hotstar has emerged as the winner off the field.
Hotstar's viewership figures are particularly impressive considering that major live-streamed events tend to grab only a fraction of the number of viewers that the IPL match attracted. To offer some perspective on the magnitude of the event, the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016 had about 2 million concurrent live viewers on YouTube, and 4.6 million watched President Trump's inauguration. Hotstar recorded a peak of 4.8 million simultaneous users during the 2017 ICC Champions Cricket Trophy final between India and Pakistan.
Hotstar is an Indian digital and mobile entertainment platform launched in 2015 by Star India, a fully-owned subsidiary of global media conglomerate 21st Century Fox. The platform has exclusive online rights to stream IPL matches and has been doing so for the past few years. It claimed that the real-time concurrent views for the current version of IPL peaked at 10.3 million, the highest by any online streaming service.
To cope with the strains of serving such a huge audience, Hotstar partnered with Akamai Technologies, which said it optimised the streaming architecture based on the fact that many people in India access the Internet through sometimes slow and patchy data connections. Akamai is the world's largest cloud delivery platform for streaming with over 200,000 servers in 130 countries.
It's indeed commendable that Hotstar was able to deliver world-beating video streaming numbers. This isn't only a testament to the popularity of the IPL and the efforts of Hotstar, but also to India's telecom evolution. Only a few years ago, high prices and data caps meant that streaming live sports online was practically unheard of. The entrance of Reliance Jio into the telecom market was one of the developments that drastically pushed down prices, enabling the average Indian to live-stream sports on their smartphones.
Hotstar is hoping to change the way millions of people in India access content, especially live sports. We believe the company is well-positioned to disrupt the market, which is seeing increased competition thanks to the presence of global brands like Amazon and Netflix. With more people using their mobile devices to access content, we expect to see an explosion in usage of on-demand and live-streaming services.
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