The 2018 instalment of the Indian Premier League cricket is set to kick off from April 7, and it's hard to believe that we're already in the eleventh season. The cricket tournament will be held over the course of the next seven weeks — culminating in the final on May 27 — with eight teams scheduled to take part.
The IPL is India's largest sporting event, and as you can imagine, the franchise draws huge numbers. Just to give you an idea of what we're dealing with here, last year's instalment saw viewership figures in excess of 400 million over the course of the tournament. That's just the figures for the television viewership across Sony's channels, and another 130 million people tuned in via Hotstar.
Clearly, there's a lot of interest in the IPL, and this year's instalment is particularly interesting as Star India will be streaming the matches live on Hotstar at the same time as the television feeds. For the last four years, there was a five-minute time delay between the live TV broadcast and the digital stream as the TV rights were owned by Sony and the digital rights by Star. But with Star India nabbing both the digital and TV rights to the IPL, you'll be able to stream in real-time on Hotstar.
Star India paid over $2.5 billion to pick up the IPL broadcast rights for the next five years, so you can be assured that the network will go out of its way to make sure the tournament is available on every platform. Here's how you can stream the upcoming season of IPL on your Android phone, tablet, or TV.
Hotstar is the exclusive destination for IPL
Like previous years, Star India-owned Hotstar is the exclusive streaming partner for the IPL. The streaming service will broadcast all 60 games live, and as I mentioned previously, the matches will be streamed in real-time. Star India will offer seven live feeds throughout the course of the tournament both on TV and Hotstar, with live commentary in six languages — English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali — spread across ten channels.
That's a huge deal as it gives the network the ability to cater to regional users much more effectively. From Star India MD Sanjay Gupta:
There's a Super Fan Feed as well that allows you to select from several camera angles, switch up the commentary language, and layer stats directly on the screen.
You'll be able to access the Super Fan Feed from Hotstar and Star Sports Select, and Star India is also introducing a social element to the streaming platform. While watching the matches on the streaming platform, you'll have the option to interact with other viewers through cricket emojis.
You'll be able to stream the matches in real-time on Hotstar provided you subscribe to the service's premium plan, which costs ₹199 ($3) a month in India, or ₹999 ($15) annually. In addition to the IPL, you get access to a vast array of HBO, Fox, and Showtime TV shows, as well as all the programming aired on Star World. Where the service truly shines, however, is when it comes to regional programming — there's a dizzying amount of local content available on Hotstar.
If you're interested in just watching cricket, then Hotstar has a sports-only package that costs just ₹299 ($4.60) for a year — that comes out to just ₹25 a month. Simply put, Hotstar is one of the best deals in video streaming in India, and real-time IPL streaming makes the service that much more enticing to a wider audience.
Hotstar is available on all major platforms — and in virtual reality
Now that you know that you'll be able to stream the matches using Hotstar, the next question is what platforms the service is available on. Thankfully, Star India made a lot of strides over the course of the last 12 months in ensuring Hotstar is available on all major platforms.
There's a native Hotstar app for Android, Android TV, and Amazon's Fire Stick, as well as the Apple TV, and you can stream the matches on the web. The Android app comes with Cast support, allowing you to cast content to a Chromecast. Unlike Netflix, Hotstar has a single ₹199 paid tier, and as long as you're subscribed to the premium plan you get unlimited access to the service's catalog, along with live sporting action. You'll also be able to stream content at 1080p.
Furthermore, Star India has announced that starting this year, it will start broadcasting matches in virtual reality. There's not a whole lot of information to go on regarding VR, but we should know how the feature works during the first round of matches. I'll take a look at how feasible it is to view the matches in VR and will update the post once I know more.
How to stream the IPL in the U.S. and Canada
There's considerable interest in the IPL internationally as well, primarily from Indians that have emigrated to the U.S. and Canada. Hotstar rolled out its global expansion at the end of last year, making its way to the U.S. and Canada.
Customers in either country will be able to view the IPL games live via Hotstar, but they have to be subscribed to the premium plan. In the U.S., the Hotstar premium plan comes out to $9.99 a month, while it is CAD$12.99 a month in Canada.
The content library is significantly diminished as Hotstar doesn't have the rights to broadcast HBO/Fox/Showtime shows in the U.S. and Canada. That said, a lot of customers eyeing Hotstar in either country will be doing so for the regional programming on offer, and on that front Hotstar maintains parity with its Indian counterpart.
Star India is setting an ambitious target of 700 million for the upcoming season of IPL, and by offering a diverse array of regional commentary feeds, it looks like the network will be able to achieve that goal.
What IPL team are you rooting for? Let me know in the comments below.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.