If you haven’t heard of Hotstar yet, perhaps you soon will. This vibrant new video streaming service, similar to a Netflix, promotes a wide array of Indian culture and media content such as cricket games, Bollywood films, and much more. As part of the recent 21st Century Fox acquisition, Hotstar will be coming to more households in the United States in 2018.

One of the channel’s proudest endeavors was hosting the “VIVO IPL Hotstar CricFest” at MatchPoint NYC in Brooklyn, New York. This collaborative event drew hundreds of local residents and regional cricket fans to the exclusive extravaganza, which featured interactive exhibits, VR, authentic South Asian cuisines and celebrity guests.

Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh--two cricket legends—appeared at the event to lend their support for the announcement of a new streaming collaboration with VIVO IPL to begin in April 2018.

Blasting News writer Meagan J. Meehan recently spoke with Ipsita Dasgupta, President, Strategy & Incubation at Star India/Hotstar International to get her insights into the excitement of bringing this membership service to American audiences and introduce Bollywood entertainment, cricket and Indian diaspora to Americans.

Indian media, content, and genres

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get into media and how did you come to work with Hotstar?

Ipsita Dasgupta (ID): I work for Star India, the Indian subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, as President – Strategy & Incubation and Hotstar International.

I have been living and working in Asia over the last nine years and moved to Star India from GE. Having worked across GE, Cisco, and IBM in Asia, I largely brought global products and services to India and China. My role as President of Hotstar International allowed me the opportunity to globalize a world-class Indian service – India’s largest premium streaming platform with content across Movies, drama, and live sports.

It was an exciting opportunity I couldn’t refuse.

MM: What do your job duties entail and what is it like to work in media?

ID: Let me focus on the Hotstar International part of my role. We launched Hotstar in North America in September of 2017. I am responsible for running the business in North America and launching throughout the rest of the world.

Media is a great industry to be in because you are at the heart of what the consumer experiences in some form or another, every day throughout the day. In building out the Hotstar International platform and business, my team and I have spent an enormous amount of time and energy in understanding and fulfilling the needs of South Asian American consumers and the journey has enabled us to learn so much and has truly been and continues to be exciting.

MM: What kind of content is Hotstar most interested in acquiring and promoting?

ID: Our focus is on the consumer experience- we want it to be engaging, immersive and authentic. Hotstar caters to all segments of the South Asian diaspora with its diverse bouquet of content encompassing the latest movies, popular TV shows, documentaries and live sports.

We continue to expand content across genres to serve our different audiences, from daily drama to live news channels and critically acclaimed lifestyle shows. We are not just expanding content but are constantly innovating to improve the user experience. In VIVO IPL 2018, Hotstar is reimagining the cricket viewing experience for its fans. For the first time, we propose to make cricket available in six languages. This includes commentary, content in virtual reality and unique features such as the fan-graph.

Bollywood, cricket, and audiences

MM: What are the challenges and rewards of bringing Bollywood content to Western audiences?

ID: Actually, we are proud of our Bollywood content and are also excited about all the content we have beyond Bollywood – we have an extensive movie library across seven languages including popular blockbusters and critically acclaimed films, as well as novel content formats like CinePlays (cinematic rendition of theatrical plays) and Bollywood based chat shows.

The rewards are great – it is the opportunity to connect people to the ultimate source of Indian entertainment and energy – fifty channels, across eight languages, loved by hundreds of millions. Our audiences span the spectrum of people who enjoy our content because it brings them closer to home, to people who are intrigued by something new and different from India. We decided to launch Hotstar in the US and Canada because we believed that we should represent the explosion of Indian entertainment that has occurred over the last decade. It is truly rewarding and exciting to get the opportunity to do that.

MM: There is a substantial Indian community in America, especially New York. Are you intending to cater to them specifically, or also branch out to larger demographics?

ID: Our current target audience is the entire South Asian community. In some areas, like live Cricket or Kabaddi, along with some of our movies and lifestyle documentaries, we believe a diverse audience beyond South Asians will engage.

MM: Cricfest, can you tell me about this event, its goal and the results/outcome?

ID: The event was really just a celebration of cricket. We know that a large part of the South Asian diaspora and our consumers on Hotstar are major cricket fans, and we wanted to create a one of a kind celebration. We had fans, legends, players, the Hotstar international team, and the US cricketing community at the event. We also had entertainment zones, food, a great stage show and two of our legendary cricket players – Anil Kumble, former Team India captain and coach, and Harbhajan Singh, former captain of Mumbai Indians and current member of Chennai Super Kings.

The idea was to bring the cricketing community together to celebrate, form connections and look forward to the much anticipated VIVO IPL and the unique experience of VIVO IPL 2018 on Hotstar.

MM: How do you hope Hotstar will evolve over the next five years?

ID: We will continue to grow our presence in the South Asian diaspora and work to represent their entertainment needs successfully. We will constantly innovate both in technology as well as content and deliver a richer and more engaging experience. As we reimagine VIVO IPL, you will see the same effort in other genres of our content. We are very excited to be the official digital streaming partner for VIVO IPL 2018 in US and Canada, and we are proud and excited to bring Indian entertainment to South Asians in North America.