Hotstar Review: A Tough Netflix Competitor In India

Don’t we all love a little visual clambake every once in a while? And what better way to get that than by using online streaming services? We’d imagine you’re here because you’re seeking some ammo regarding the same. The thing about streaming services is that people can comfortably watch movies, TV series, and other video content at their suitable time or venue without shelling out huge scads of money.

But we bet you know this already. What you may actually want to know is how good “Hotstar” really is. So without wasting any more time, let’s come straight to the point. Owned by Star India, Hotstar is a fairly new entrant into the digital VOD TV territory that was officially introduced to users in 2015, almost a decade after one of its contender, Netflix was launched. Having said that, there was never really a direct competition between the two considering that both the services had their own selling points and targeted completely different audiences.

In fact, it’s safe to say that Hotstar is to India, what Netflix is to the U.S. Only, its more akin to HBO Go, but we’ll talk about that in a bit.

At first, Hotstar was brought about with an aim to offer a mobile app that facilitated live streaming of Cricket matches and other sports, coupled with a few TV shows. But as we know, the craze caught up, thanks to Hotstar’s incredible performance and reliability. Ultimately, the company expanded its library and currently boasts a user base of approximately 50 million and a daily viewership of 3 to 4 million.

Plan & Pricing

You may be happy to know that quite a few numbers of titles on Hotstar are available free of cost but this free content is interrupted with a few short commercials. However, Hotstar’s premium content sans ads can be accessed by subscribing to its one and only membership plan. This premium membership plan is reasonably priced at Rs. 199/month, equivalent to approximately $3, which is considerably lower compared to other streaming services’ packages like Netflix cost around $7.99 for a basic plan.

Alternatively, you can also opt for a 3-month (Rs. 597), 6-month (Rs. 1194), 9-month (Rs. 1791) or annual (Rs. 2388) payment scheme as it’ll save you a decent sum of money. What’s more? You can avail a free trial of Hotstar’s services for a month, that’s a lot of time compared to the 7-day trial period offered by most VOD companies.

If you’re unhappy with their services, you can cancel your subscription anytime. So there’s really nothing to lose!

Content Selection

Hotstar content


Since the beginning, Hotstar’s focal point has always been live sports streaming. But today, over 50,000 hours of content is available in nine different languages including Hindi, English, Bengali, Kannada, Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, Tamil, and Malayalam. You can choose movies from a wide variety of genres such as Action, Romance, Comedy, and Thriller. Sports aficionados and news addicts can stream live/on-demand matches and watch the trending stories.

Some of the popular Indian TV series on Hotstar include ‘Yeh Hai Mohabbatein’, ‘Pardes’, ‘Koffee with Karan’, and ‘Saathiya’. The streaming company has also secured rights from HBO and Star World making hit shows like Game of Thrones, Modern Family, Prison Break, Homeland, and How I Met Your Mother available under Premium membership.

Interface & Video Quality

Hotstar’s design and the interface is one of the cleanest and friendliest out there. On the Homepage, you’ll find the five main content categories at the top – TV, Movies, Sports, News, and Channels. On the top left corner, there’s a hamburger-style menu button that lists the aforementioned categories as well as genres and languages to make it easier to choose titles for watching. For ease of selection, Hotstar has also curated a separate category called “Popular Movies” and “Popular TV Shows”.

Upon clicking a certain category, you’ll notice that the titles are displayed in a neat, tile-like format with not only the poster but also other minute details such as genre, language, and year of release; something that Netflix’s thumbnails lack. Once you’ve selected a particular show or movie, simply click on the play button. Many of Hotstar titles are supplemented with subtitles.

You can change the video quality setting to three different resolutions – 180p, 360p, and 720p depending on your internet connection. In case your Internet is too slow, the video quality will be automatically set to the lowest resolution. Unfortunately, Hotstar does not offer 1080p or 4K content yet.

Can You Watch Hotstar Content Offline?

Absolutely! Just like Netflix, you can download selective titles on Hotstar and watch them offline by tapping the ‘download’ button below the selected movie/show. If this button doesn’t appear, it means that you can only watch it online. Currently, the Hotstar app is available only in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. Also, premium content is only accessible in India only.

Compatible Platforms & Devices

Hotstar enables users to stream content through its website as well as apps that are supported on both, Android and iOS platforms. At present, you can enjoy its content on an iPhone or an Android smartphone, tablets, Macbooks, and PCs. Last year, Hotstar also made its app suitable for running on Google Chromecast and select Smart TVs.

Visit Site | Android App | iOS App

 Who is it for?

Hotstar’s services are mainly targeted at Indians & other South Asians who’re looking to stream live cricket or football matches and those who love watching Indian TV serials but are unable to follow the official broadcast schedule. It also allows users to enjoy popular English shows that may otherwise be hard to get hands on.

Having said that, Hotstar has witnessed growing popularity overseas as well. Their app is useful for Indians living abroad or even citizens of other countries who love Indian TV shows or movies. To boot, shows like Game of Thrones are well-loved worldwide but are not easily available for viewing online. So irrespective of your country of residence, Hotstar maybe the app you’ve been looking for.

Unfortunately, you cannot download the Hotstar app if you’re living in a country that isn’t mentioned under the “Availability” subtopic. That brings us to our next subtopic.

How to Watch Hotstar Outside India?

If you’re a Bollywood fan or enjoy watching Indian TV but live abroad, don’t worry. Even though Hotstar is geo-confined, there are a couple of ways by which you could get access to its content.

  • VPN service – by simply purchasing a credible VPN service, you’ll be able to change your IP address and location to India. We’d suggest that you go ahead and get IPVanish VPN as it works the best for the Indian subcontinent.
  • Smart DNS – By altering the DNS IP of your WiFi router to SmartDNS proxy IPs, you’d be able to unlock any sites that are geo-blocked. Simply get in touch with a SmartDNS provider such as Unlocator and make sure that you request for an Indian DNS.

The Differentiating Factors

 The major factors that make the Hotstar app stand out are:

  • Regional entertainment selection – it is way broader than Netflix or any other global streaming service
  • Attractive Price Point – with a monthly fee of just Rs. 200/month for its unlimited access to its premium content, Hotstar offers unbeatable value for money.
  • Shows that are hard to access – shows such as Modern Family and Game of Thrones can be easily watched on Hotstar while its competitors struggle to obtain rights from the concerned channels.
  • A Decent collection of free content – unlike other sites that offer free, but trashy content, Hotstar’s free content is actually quite well-rated on sites like IMDB.

Hotstar Comedowns

Hotstar is not all rainbows and butterflies. Similar to any service, it does have a few setbacks.

  • Inability to start from where you stopped in case of interruptions – Since Hotstar content is meant for watching on smartphones or tablets, its common to be interrupted by a phone call or text messages. However, on Hotstar, you’ll be redirected to the main window upon ending your call or replying to a message. This can be quite frustrating in the longer run.
  • Buffering in a case of low internet speeds – Although Hotstar claims that users need a lower bandwidth to stream its content in HD, this is untrue when it comes to practical usage. If your internet speed is less than 512 kbps, either the video quality will be set at a very low resolution or it’ll keep buffering.

Our Verdict

If Indian TV and live sports are up to your alley, then Hotstar will surely prove to be your kryptonite. Despite a few stumbling blocks, Hotstar has emerged as one of the most successful digital TV apps with an unstoppable growth in viewership. If Hotstar corrects the few errors that we mentioned earlier and brings more channels to its table, it might even smash Netflix’s popularity in the South Asian region. It’s definitely a thumbs up from us!

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