Disney+ Hotstar India Chief Sunil Rayan on Subscription Offering: ‘We’re Leading the Pack’

Sunil Rayan, president and head of Disney+ Hotstar India, has hailed the “tremendous strides” the streamer has made in its subscription offerings over the last two years.

Disney+ Hotstar is the SVOD market leader in the country by some distance. Speaking at the Asia Video Industry Association’s Future of Video India conference on Friday, Rayan said that the streamer has evolved from being primarily cricket-focused to a cricket-plus-entertainment model.

“We’ve made a significant shift, both in terms of investments and the quality of entertainment that we’ve provided, that’s highly digital native,” Rayan said. “We’ve made tremendous strides. We feel like we’re leading the pack when it comes to subscription offerings. And it’s all enabled by just providing consumer choices.”

The choices include three tiers of subscription plans, a push into original programming from various Indian languages and licensing deals that feature a plethora of direct-to-digital films starring marquee names. “From a content perspective that we have always also tried to evolve and experiment, getting into different types of shows. We’ve done short formats. We’ve done influencer-based shows, we’ve done shows with episodes of five to 10 minutes each, just so we can kind of align with where the consumer preferences are going.”

Rayan, a technologist with more than 20 years of experience, whose last stint was with Google in California, has brought his knowhow into play in enhancing the user experience, with a “mission of making things accessible to as many people as possible.” The service, previously available only on Apple TV and Android TV is now also available on Samsung, Chromecast and Fire TV Stick. And, a lot more content is available in 4K video quality, as well as Dolby 5.1, “just to make the experience a little bit more richer.” The service has also introduced more interactivity, like social live chats during a cricket match.

The executive says that Disney+ Hotstar is striking a balance between SVOD and AVOD in what is a price sensitive market, with paid subscriptions providing revenue predictability and advertising supported content adding scale to the business.

Rayan is also hopeful of the service’s original Indian content going global, citing the example of “Aarya,” which scored an International Emmy nomination and performed well on Hulu.

“Our content is made for the local market, but we wanted to give it a chance to actually succeed. So we’re working on the distribution side of things, and the content discovery – on how it can appear a lot more in global screens. And then eventually, once people see it, that should determine whether something goes global or not,” says Rayan. “We are here to make content creators’ dreams come true. And this would definitely be one of the highlights.”