Hotstar, IPL drive Disney+ memberships in Q4

Hotstar had rebranded itself as Disney+ Hotstar with the launch of the latter in the country this April. It took advantage of the pandemic to acquire seven Bollywood titles, in a deal pegged at ₹400 crore and ramped up its library of originals

NEW DELHI: Media and entertainment conglomerate Walt Disney, which ended its fourth quarter with 73.7 million paid subscribers for its video streaming service Disney+, has said that the Hotstar platform in India (branded Disney+Hotstar) was the largest contributor to this increase of over 16 million subscribers sequentially.

“Disney+ Hotstar subscriber additions were the largest contributor to this increase, driven by the start of the delayed IPL season. Disney+ Hotstar subscribers now account for a little over a quarter of our global subscriber base," CEO Bob Chapek said in an earnings call. Chapek did not give exact India-specific subscriber numbers.

Hotstar had rebranded itself as Disney+ Hotstar with the launch of the latter in the country this April. It took advantage of the covid-19 pandemic to acquire seven Bollywood titles, including Akshay Kumar’s Laxmii, Ajay Devgn’s Bhuj: The Pride of India and Alia Bhatt’s Sadak 2, in what is estimated to be a ₹400 crore deal, besides ramping up its library of originals.

Mint had earlier reported that Disney is likely to scale down its television broadcasting, sports catalogue and film studio business in India. The move followed top executive Uday Shankar stepping down as president, APAC (Asia and Pacific) region, and chairman, Star and Disney India last month, accompanied by an announcement of the company’s intention to reorganise its media and entertainment businesses to “focus on developing and producing original content for the company’s streaming services."

The announcement was made in a blog on its website.

“In context of everything that's happening, sports ratings are actually holding up quite well. We don't have fans in the stands, we have the risk of games individually every week being cancelled..if you adjust viewership over the last couple of months for the amount of available content, you see that they kind of slide together. So, we actually don't have any concerns about the long-term health of sports," Chapek said on the company’s overall sports catalogue.

However, media experts point out that the IPL may be grabbing its own share of eyeballs but monetizing the sports catalogue is going to be a challenge for the next couple of years with the uncertainty around sports business, in general, in a world wrecked by covid restrictions.

The past month saw four top level executives of Star Sports in India quit, including president and CEO Gautam Thakar, Ashok Namboodiri, business head, regional sports network, Rajiv Mathrani, marketing head and Rupali Fernandes, emerging sports.