“Are we just going to try and change almost 90 years of broadcasting history?” We were. It’s just that every once in a while you get a chance to innovate beyond people’s imaginations and potentially shake things up for years to come. In the moments that you do, you pounce.


Innovation has always lain at the core of Disney+ Hotstar’s DNA, and the sport of cricket has often served as a vehicle for it. We live-streamed cricket way back in 2015, revolutionising the sport and the market. We were also the first in India to introduce watch parties, prediction based play-along games, key moments and many more such interactive experiences, a few of which have now become the industry standard. With the ICC Cricket World Cup returning to be played on home soil after 12 long years, it was time to spark another fire, the biggest one yet.

Though the development and shipment of Hotstar X (read that story here) kept everyone occupied, the “next big thing” in cricket had to be found too. Org-wide jam sessions were held, some objectively great ideas popped up, but somehow none of them really got everyone’s hair tingling. None, except one.

What is MaxView?

MaxView is a brand new vertical cricket watching experience that lies at the cusp of absolute natural immersion. With globally changing consumption trends and people always on the move, the aim was being able to render the country’s favourite sport into the most comfortable, natural of grips, while enhancing the experience significantly.

Closer up action

A bespoke, taller video stream that shows you more details of the action from closer up than ever before. Decades of camera handling and panning experience enhanced by some AI magic keep the ball always in the best possible region of interest. Vertical-specific infographics enrich the experience further.

Split Views

The extra real estate also means that at the right moment, the feed can be split up to display 2 camera streams simultaneously. With every strike of the ball, you’d now be able to see where it went and how the players reacted to it. Runs between wickets more intense, DRS reviews supremely dramatic, Virat’s post-century kisses to Anushka now two-way.

Live feed and scorecard

With access to ball-by-ball commentary in the live feed and the detailed scorecard just a swipe away, it creates a true single-stop ecosystem for all sorts of cricket watching- casual or fanatic.

How we got here

A significantly larger video feed, contextually curated split views and easy access to rich surround content right below the player- all in your natural, vertical grip. No awkward tilting, twisting and turning of phones- just true immersion on the go. With a fire yet to be lit, one would think this one would have been an immediate no-brainer; it wasn’t always smooth sailing, though.

While it sparked serious elation all around, executing the idea seemed so out of reach that it had already been discussed and sidelined a couple of times over the months due to the complexity of delivery- the wild timelines, immense business implications and the massive, even unknown production requirements just trumped the eagerness at the time.

What catapulted the idea back to the table and right to the top was the ICC’s serendipitously similar vision for vertical cricket and their commitment to conceive the best possible version of it. With that strong a belief as the foundation, there was more seriousness, excitement and nervousness about the idea than ever before, and one recurring question:

“Are we really just going to try and change almost 90 years of broadcasting history?”

We were. It’s just that every once in a while you get a chance to innovate beyond people’s imaginations and potentially shake things up for years to come. In the moments that you do, you pounce.

Bigger, better and bolder

With everyone (eventually) aligned, an uneasy look at the calendar revealed that we had just about a month and a half to design, build and deliver the potential future of video consumption. (Still can’t help but chuckle a bit)

Code-named “VLC” (short for Vertical Live Cricket), the project started off with a modest, super-conservative delivery plan. What followed next all around the org was excitement-fuelled delivery in the most unorthodox of fashions. Relentless, iterative, massive efforts spanning multiple teams across partner organizations; while keeping our customers at the heart of it each step of the way.

Finding the right balance

The design and research team ran simultaneous cycles of iteration and user testing. Various market-sport combinations were studied where this model had been tried before to extract what worked and what didn’t. While vertical football (soccer) in the US didn’t really take off, it worked immensely well for Bundesliga in Germany. Even basketball, a much more dynamic sport, had a very successful vertical mode debut in China in recent times. We eventually came up with a recipe we were fairly confident about; it was now time to take it to the people!

One of the earlier visualizations of the idea

With the help of our researchers, we tried various layouts and tested multiple manifestations of buttons and toggles by creating a spectrum of simplicity and novelty. We initially tried naming both the vertical and the regular portrait modes, and used discrete buttons to switch between them. Testing told us that a stage of understanding this nascent, it was best to reduce the learning curve, and rather have a simple on-off toggle.

One of the other larger decisions to make was to choose between a 9:14 and a 9:16 video size. We set up a few guardrails to help us make a decision-

  • The toggle to switch back to regular portrait must always be accessible to all users while in this mode.
  • None of the central action area or the primary graphics could be cropped regardless of the device size. On the other extreme, black borders also went against the idea of edge-to-edge immersion.
  • The quick access to ball-by-ball commentary and the scorecard below the player was an important aspect of the portrait experience that we wanted to maintain.

Considering these constraints and the extremely vast spectrum of the Next Billion device sizes, there wasn’t an easy way to optimise the 9:16 video experience for one size without degrading the experience of the others. While 9:16 was the more immersive of the two, for a static ratio, 9:14 struck the immersion vs affordance balance the best across the spectrum.

The evolution of content

With the ideal aspect ratio identified from a product experience lens, the team shifted their focus to figuring out the specifics of the feed’s production. The challenge was elevating the current cricket watching experience while combating the downsides of a significantly narrower field of view!

A snap of a focus-group session held for VLC led by Rajath, UX researcher at the Bengaluru office.

Researchers, designers and product managers fluttered around between speaking to users for hours and collaborating with the production team, relaying any learnings to devise a strategy that would deliver the best possible experience. To be able to compensate for the narrower FOV, vertical video had to be shot afresh with its own specifications and incorporated learnings from the extensive user research; processes seasoned over decades had to be reimagined. 6 special cameras were placed in each host stadium and camera-crew with years of experience were hand-picked and trained by Star Sports for the task of leading this evolution from the front, while the ICC produced the world feed.

The power of collaboration

At the same time on the engineering side, the brilliant AdTech team, in another instance of serendipity, just happened to have a working prototype for a video player that supported dynamic aspect ratios (ready from a different project). The video experiences engineering team sprinted the second they got passed that baton, optimising the experience to deliver the best possible value to the users. The engineering team braced our systems for concurrent viewers larger than we (or anyone else in the world) had seen before- everyone else from product, marketing and business that touched the project added their share of magic to the bubbling cauldron that was VLC.

The shortest month and a half later, with dozens of relationships formed and the smallest number of stumbles humanly possible, the relay was over! VLC was finally ready to take on all that it was poised to and more; all that remained was giving it a name that communicated its magnitude. A lot of names were floated- some too technical, some too subtle considering the monumental goal, some just plain funny. A comprehensive cycle of diverging and testing later, MaxView was born.

Getting the word out

With the feature and content strategy in the chamber, the first bullet to be fired was to let people know of the innovation. A myriad of on-product communications were launched with the beginning of the World Cup to help drive this monumental shift in how cricket was consumed. Getting early feedback and driving awareness, intent and eventually conversion was paramount – push notifications, on-product nudges, visual explainers on the match page did a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of making people aware of the feature.

In parallel, the task of creating a memorable promo ad for off-platform impact was taken up and who better to star in it than India’s first world cup winning captain- Kapil Dev! Watch as Paaji walks around a set wondering if he now needs to teach people how to watch cricket after teaching them how to play the sport.


Where do we go from here?

The first version of MaxView went live and thrived with the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. We set multiple world records and received a lot of love that reaffirms the aim of revolution, and some great constructive feedback that we’re absolutely on top of for the next version.

People talking about MaxView

And while we gather ourselves after the last World Cup, there’s immense joy in sharing that its demand has outgrown just cricket already. VLC is now VE- Vertical Everything! MaxView was recently launched on one of India’s biggest reality shows, Dance+ Pro, marking its entertainment debut and what are hopefully the beginnings of a true paradigm shift in video consumption.

At the end of the day, this is what it’s all about. Pushing the envelope as far as you can and being able to take on the risk that comes before the reward. To be able to operate in a machine that fosters this sentiment in every single one of its cog is beyond cool, to say the least.

Passionate about breaking the barriers and building world class experiences at scale? Join us: https://careers.hotstar.com/jobs

MaxView: game-changing, literally was originally published in Disney+ Hotstar on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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