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Star COO on Hotstar, monetisation and more

Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairmen at 21st Century Fox, believe the group's entertainment and sports broadcast business under the Star brand will lead its growth in India. "Over the last 12 months Star expanded on its well-established leadership position in general entertainment, moving aggressively into the sports market with Star Sports, which is seeing exciting growth," they said in the company's 2015 annual report.

Star India, a wholly owned unit of 21st Century Fox, has 51 channels in seven languages that are distributed throughout Asia, Europe, North America and parts of Africa. Rupert Murdoch also owns News Corp, the parent of this website.

In September, several news reports cited a senior executive as saying that Star India was on target to achieve operating profit of $500 million by 2018. As part of its expansion plan, the network is creating a new programming strategy, expanding its sports broadcast business and entering the digital world with its mobile app Hotstar. In a conversation with VCCircle, Star India COO Sanjay Gupta talks about the network's digital plan and monetisation strategy. Edited excerpts:

Digital is gradually taking a prime position in the scheme of things for broadcasters. What are your plans for the over-the-top (OTT) platform Hotstar?

We launched Hotstar in January and the app received 20 million downloads in just four months. We feel very encouraged by the response.

As far as content is concerned, digital is a medium for young people, so the content on Hotstar will be skewed towards young people. For example, a new show called, On Air with AIB has been launched on the Star Network this month. The 20-episode show with 10 episodes in English, and another 10 in Hindi will be released on Hotstar first, followed by weekend airing on Star World and Star Plus.

Likewise, we had in the past created exclusive content under the banner, 'Hotstar Originals', to promote movie associations, apart from our shows. For instance, to promote Hindi film Bombay Velvet, we had created 'Bombay Velvet Club', where director Karan Johar chatted with actors Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma. Similarly, we created Ab Bolega Chetan where author Chetan Bhagat shared his views on relationship.

Next, we moved youth fiction show Phir Bhi Na Mane Badtameez Dil from Star Plus exclusively to Hotstar. From September 28, new episodes of the show have been released every weekday morning on the app. We will continue to create exclusive content to push creativity.

What about monetisation? Do you plan to add subscription sometime in the future?

We have received a good response from advertisers who are willing to invest in the property. Right now the app is free to download and use. It will remain so for the next few years, as we believe that the OTT space offers enough potential for an app like Hotstar to grow through meaningful offering supported with advertising. Advertising is the main business model.

For the full interview, click here.