In 2019, Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox also included Star India, which comprised of Hotstar, film studios, over seventy linear channels, and other assets. Following the global launch of Disney+, Hotstar was rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar, providing a diverse range of Indian content and the five fundamental brands of Disney+, such as Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic.
The subscribers due to Disney+ Hotstar resulted in a staggering increase of over 60 million. However, despite the impressive numbers, the Indian streaming service faced several challenges. One of the most significant obstacles was the fact that each Disney+ Hotstar subscriber was generating a mere 60 cents per month, in contrast to the $7 generated outside of India. Consequently, Disney decided to withdraw from the bidding process for the Indian Premiere League Cricket rights, which would have cost them billions of dollars. Unfortunately, this decision led to a loss of over 20 million subscribers for Disney+ Hotstar, causing widespread concern and generating significant media attention regarding the future of the platform.
We have witnessed significant growth in our company, largely attributed to our association with various sports properties, particularly during the T20 World Cup. However, we are currently undergoing a phase of evolution, where we are reevaluating our strategies. The Indian Premier League (IPL) has played a pivotal role in our journey, attracting a specific group of subscribers. We acknowledge that with the absence of IPL, these subscribers may not continue to engage with us. Nevertheless, we have anticipated these changes and are prepared to adapt accordingly.
In recent months, Disney has engaged in discussions with several companies, such as Sony and Reliance, regarding the potential sale of some or all of its assets in India. This decision aligns with our objective of refocusing on our core businesses and prioritizing profitability over increasing subscriber numbers. Sajith has emphasized Disney’s long-term plans and the reduced emphasis on sports content, stating: “By the long term, I don’t mean like a year, two or three. It is what we are building over the next decade. What would that be? We were predominantly known as a sports-driven service. Now, we are trying to find the right balance between sports and entertainment. Because the beauty of India is that there is a vast audience who enjoy not just sports, but entertainment. I genuinely believe we’re in a great place with the portfolio we have, and we can address those needs.”
Disney CEO Bob Iger has recently addressed the company’s intention to decrease the production of local content, opting to do so only when it aligns with our business objectives and generates revenue for the platform. Instead, our focus lies in curating a lineup of global shows. Sivanandan has provided insights into how this shift may impact Disney+ Hotstar.