First Class: Cricket Fever Ignites in America on Hotstar

New York, N.Y. On a cold, rainy and dreary Saturday afternoon during the end of February, I schlepped out to Brooklyn from Roosevelt Island to learn more about a sport I had only heard and seen images of in my life – cricket. The New York/New Jersey area is home to the most active cricket community in the country, and the borough of Brooklyn has more than 60 cricket clubs that engage more than 1200 players, varying in age and level of expertise from amateur to semi-professional, according to CricClubs, a cloud-based software platform that tracks and manages more than 700,000 players in 56 countries around the world.

Image #1Cricket enthusiast takes a swing in the practice pitch.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

It’s no wonder then that Hotstar, India’s largest premium streaming platform for South Asian entertainment, chose to host its American marquee event, CricFest, at a 120,000 square feet health and fitness complex in Brooklyn called MatchPoint. The event featured sports legend Anil Kumble and superstar Harbhajan Singh, both of whom interacted with fans, signed autographs and sang praises of the Hotstar platform. Cricket commentator and host Gaurav Kapur emceed the evening’s highly entertaining program, filled with highlights, Q&A sessions and fan interactions.

Image #2From L to R: Gaurav Kapur, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

A subsidiary of Star India and 21st Century Fox, Hotstar was launched in India in 2015 and became the fastest app to reach a million downloads within a week of going live. The platform, which just became available in the U.S. in September of last year, offers a bouquet of rich and diverse content encompassing the latest movies, popular TV shows, documentaries and live sports, especially cricket.

Image #3Fans taking pictures against VIVO IPL backdrop.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

Star India paid $2.5 billion to secure global TV and digital rights for the next five years for the VIVO Indian Premier League (IPL) – a cricket competition that runs for just two months out of the year. The new deal means each match will cost Star roughly $8.5 million, making the IPL one of the richest sports leagues in the world, attracting more than 700 million fans worldwide this year. Starting on April 7th, cricket fans in the U.S. will be able to access all the matches from India on Hotstar in real time, with commentary in six languages, including English and five regional languages, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali.

Image #4Fans interacting with cricket celebrities.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

It gives us great pleasure to bring VIVO IPL 2018 on Hotstar for cricket fans in North America”, said Ipsita Dasgupta, President – Strategy and Incubation, and Hotstar International at Star India. “Leveraging our technology, consumer insight, and expertise in cricket coverage, Hotstar will deliver an immersive and engaging experience combined with greater convenience to our American audience.”

Image #5The author interviewing Ipsita Dasgupta during the CricFest press conference.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

This “immersive and engaging experience” Dasgupta refers to includes:

  • Virtual Reality (VR) matches, enabling fans to come closer to the game within the comfort of their homes;
  • Unique fan-graph feature that allows the audience to track the number of simultaneous viewers and relive key moments during any game;
  • Exclusive pre and post-match shows and analysis—all available via live stream;
  • And snackable content, including highlights and complete replays available as Video-On-Demand.

Image #6Fan experiencing cricket in virtual reality.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

At CricFest, fans and cricket enthusiasts experienced similar activations: a cricket pitch set up in the center of the arena, cricket plays in virtual reality, a 360 degree GIF photo booth, live talkback and coaching session with Kumble and Singh, as well as scrumptious street food, courtesy of Awadh Restaurant and one of New York’s finest chefs, Gaurav Anand. For a video of CricFest highlights, click HERE (courtesy of Asian Variety Show).

Image #7Street food from eight regions of India from Awadh Restaurant.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

“It’s incredible to see such passion for cricket halfway across the world,” said Harbhajan Singh, former captain of Mumbai Indians and current member of the Chennai Super Kings. “VIVO IPL 2018 will be an exciting season for all cricket fans and enthusiasts, including those in America, who can now participate in the same experience as millions of Indians back home do through Hotstar.” 

Image #8Harbhajan Singh interacting with a young cricket fan
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith. 

Hotstar can be accessed through us.hotstar.com, ca.hotstar.com or via iOS AppStore, Google Playstore, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire and Android TV. The first month is FREE for subscribers and future months cost $9.99. The VIVO IPL cricket matches begin on April 7th and the finals will take place in Mumbai on May 27th. For a complete schedule, please click HERE.

Image #9Fans interacting with the cricket celebrities.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

“Cricket fans in the US deserve to watch the sport on a platform that understands their love for the game, and is powered by technology that focuses on delivering a great consumer experience. I’m truly excited that Hotstar is the official digital streaming partner of VIVO IPL 2018 in the U.S.,” said Anil Kumble, former Team India Captain, player and coach.

Image #10Cricket legend Anil Kumble bowling a ball at CricFest.
Photo Credit: Anton Martynov / Sean T. Smith.

See Stories by Jim Luce on:

India & Indian-American Culture

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.