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Disney+ Hotstar’s loses 8.4 million subscribers amid fierce competition and lost content rights

Reliance Industries Nearing a Deal to Acquire Disney's India Operations Amid Streaming Wars

Disney+ Hotstar, one of India’s leading streaming platforms, has experienced a significant setback with a decline of 8.4 million subscribers over the last six months, according to Walt Disney Co. The platform’s parent company, Disney, reported a 2 per cent contraction in its total subscriber base for the quarter ending March 2023. The decrease, largely attributed to Hotstar, witnessed a loss of 4.6 million subscribers in the same quarter, marking the second consecutive quarter of a downward trend in subscriber count.

Disney+ Hotstar, primarily catering to viewers in India and Southeast Asia, counted India as its most substantial market with about 53 million subscribers. However, the platform has experienced a downward trajectory not just in the number of subscribers but also in revenue per subscriber, dropping from 74 per cent to 59 per cent in the quarter ending March.

A primary factor contributing to this declining trend is the loss of digital rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL). Viacom18, a company owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, outbid Disney for the IPL broadcasting rights. The blow was further amplified when JioCinema, backed by Reliance, began streaming the IPL tournament for free in India, an aggressive move to attract customers.

Adding to the series of unfortunate events, Disney+ Hotstar ended its licensing agreement with HBO, removing its entire catalog from the platform. This decision was a significant loss for Hotstar, given the popularity of HBO shows like Game of Thrones, Succession, and Westworld. These rights, too, were secured by Viacom18, which only deepened the gap between the competitors.

Terminating distribution partnerships with certain telecom companies also played a role in the decline of Hotstar’s subscribers.

Meanwhile, Reliance Industries’ JioCinema has been gaining traction, with its viewership reaching nearly 500 million, almost on par with YouTube’s monthly viewership. The platform saw a massive spike in downloads – over 50 million – during the first weekend of the T20 league. JioCinema’s partnership with HBO and its move towards original content in local languages has further positioned it as a formidable competitor in the OTT space.

Looking forward, industry experts predict that Disney+ Hotstar’s subscriber base could shrink by an additional 7 million by the end of the year. As the OTT landscape intensifies, Disney+ Hotstar will need to rethink its strategies to regain its footing and market share.

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