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Hotstar rejigs team ahead of Disney+ launch

Hotstar
In the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) final, the platform recorded 18.6 million concurrent viewers, while the cricket world cup semi-final, which featured India, saw 25.3 million viewers log on to Hotstar.
Walt Disney Company’s OTT platform Hotstar is seeing a slew of organisational changes with the imminent launch of Disney+, three people with knowledge of the company’s functioning said.

Disney+ is the streaming service that the Los Angeles-based media giant is set to launch in the United States and Canada in November. The Over-The-Top service will compete with Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, and will be part of a bouquet of streaming platforms Disney has control over, including ESPN and Hulu.

The partnerships with ESPN and Hulu are important in how they affect Hotstar. Since former Hotstar CEO Ajit Mohan left the company last year to head Facebook’s India operations, the company has primarily been managed by its parent Star India and its chairman Uday Shankar.

Shankar, sources said, has remained in control, but the day-today operations will now be shared between Los Angeles and Mumbai. Varun Narang, Hotstar’s chief product officer, is largely operating out of LA, where Disney is headquartered, sources said. A few of the decisions from LA have started to come through, said one of the people.

Some of these changes include those to Hotstar, whose technology team is in the middle of an overhaul. Those in the know say that some of Hotstar’s in-house technology talent has been moved to Disney in the United States. These changes, they add, could be down to Disney’s focus on live sports streaming (through ESPN+), an area where Hotstar is considered to have done well, with the IPL and other international tournaments.

Hotstar, however, denied that there was an overhaul in the works. “We are not aware of, and do not foresee, any personnel movements from within the Hotstar team to anywhere else. We have some of the best and brightest minds of the industry working with us, and we continue to remain obsessively committed to serving our customers in India and across the world,” Hotstar said in an emailed response.

In the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) final, the platform recorded 18.6 million concurrent viewers, while the cricket world cup semi-final, which featured India, saw 25.3 million viewers log on to Hotstar.

These numbers have impressed the leadership in Disney, said one of the people mentioned earlier.

“Hotstar’s technology team has a lot of expertise when it comes to handling high bandwidth concurrency. It will come in handy with all the major sporting events in the US, such as the NCAA, NBA, NFL and others like it,” said one of the people.

Disney is also giving Hotstar access to its talent base in Hulu.
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