India’s Hotstar draws over 10 million concurrent viewers, sets new global record

An Indian on-demand streaming service, with fewer than 400 employees, has pulled off a milestone that Silicon Valley companies Facebook, Amazon and Google-owned YouTube can only dream about at the moment.

On several occasions Sunday evening, more than 10 million viewers simultaneously tuned in to Hotstar, the largest on-demand streaming service in India (by various metrics, including and especially, the size of the user base), to watch the deciding match of the 11th edition of Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

The real-time concurrent views, displayed publicly on Hotstar’s website, peaked at 10.7 million, the highest any online streaming service has reported to date¹. I have been told that internal data at the moment suggests the highest figure was 10.3 million viewers. (Update: 10.3 million is the official figure, Hotstar said in a statement.)

Regardless, it’s a big milestone for Star India-owned Hotstar, which first broke the previous top record — about 8 million concurrent views — in the first qualifier match in the same cricket tournament earlier this week. In 2012, YouTube reported that its platform saw about 8 million concurrent views on the live-stream of skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumping from near-space to the Earth’s surface.

To offer some more context, the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016 had garnered about 2 million peak concurrents on YouTube across over half-a-dozen media partners. 4.6 million concurrent viewers watched the Trump’s inauguration, according to Akamai. The Royal Wedding peaked at 1.29 million simultaneous viewers.

So how did Hotstar, which last year expanded its service to the US and Canada, pull it off? Besides ensuring that it has a competent tech backend (Hotstar, in conjunction with partner Akamai, has long been working to make its live-streams load swiftly on slow and patchy data connections), Hotstar has been blessed with exclusive online rights to stream IPL matches. (In an IPL tournament, held once a year, there are about 60 matches that are played in a span of two months.)

Elsewhere in the world, securing rights to a cricket tournament would be far less compelling, but in India cricket is very much a religion. Just ask Facebook. Last year it went out of its way to snag the rights to broadcast IPL matches. It lost.

Additionally, ad-supported service Hotstar has been aggressively luring people to watch the cricket matches on its platform. It offers multiple low-cost plans to paying customers, and also allows users on the free tier to watch some content.

Update May 29, 16:02: Star India said Tuesday that 202 million viewers (up from 130 million viewers last year) watched IPL’s 11th edition through Hotstar platform this year.

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  1. Netflix is not into live-streaming of events, and Amazon rarely discloses Prime Video stats. China’s iQIYI is a mammoth, but when it comes to simultaneous viewers, it has not reported any figure that goes north of 2-million. Twitch is in the same boat.