DISNEY+ India looming sports rights battle plays big role in future global growth
A DISNEY+ India #MediaNerd 🤓 read
The DISNEY Q2 earnings report is coming out today with an updated DISNEY+ subscriber count that is rumored to show plateauing growth in the US, so it’s an important time to take a look at a key part of the DIS+ growth horizon in the next few years - INDIA, their 2nd biggest subscriber base.
DISNEY+ last reported about 103 Million subscribers globally in April: The US has about 38 Million as of July, and India makes up about 34 million.
A new report projects India will hit 46 million subscribers by the end of the year, making it an even bigger part of the DISNEY+ business. However, it’s critical that DISNEY+’s India business be treated almost as a separate entity, and one that is facing some unique challenges within the next year.
BACKGROUND: The service is called DISNEY+ HOTSTAR there, and HOTSTAR is an India-based TV / Movie / Sports streaming service platform that DISNEY acquired when it bought 20TH CENTURY FOX in 2018.
You can also subscribe to the HOTSTAR streaming service here in the US to stream India Sports (Cricket being the main draw, more on that below) as well as Bollywood Movies and TV shows for $10 a month.
When DISNEY+ launched in India, DISNEY kinda merged the two services together and rebranded the service as DISNEY+ HOTSTAR.
LATEST: DISNEY+ HOTSTAR recently announced a slight pricing increase to their extremely low prices as of Sept 1:
Mobile-only subscription, 1 device: $7 a Year
Web, TV & Mobile viewing with ads on 2 devices: $12 a year
Everything, no ads, on up to 4 devices: $20 a year
Some additional context:
NETFLIX charges over 4X as much as DISNEY+ does in India : The base NFLX plan is $30/year; the base DIS+HOTSTAR plan is $7/year.
NETFLIX has roughly 10-15% of DISNEY+’s India subscriber total (around 4 to 5 Million). AMAZON PRIME is also a player here, but as in the US… who knows how many people use the video service in India.
ALSO - DISNEY PREMIERE ACCESS movies (“Black Widow”, “Cruella” etc) are not available for rent to their 34 Million DISNEY+ HOTSTAR India subscribers, so this is not part of their revenue or brand here.
CRITICAL JUNCTURE AHEAD: A big key to DISNEY+ HOTSTAR’s success is their Cricket rights package - specifically a league called the IPL, which is essentially the NFL-for-India (ish) and a key part of DISNEY+ HOTSTAR’s success.
However - those rights are up after next season in 2022. DISNEY is about to enter negotiations to renew their IPL deal according to VARIETY (they’re paying about $500 Million/year now).
But they’re not alone:
FACEBOOK made a competing but unsuccessful $600 Million bid in the last 2018 rights auction for the US rights to IPL Cricket. This may have been a one-off anomaly in FACEBOOK’s history (they were pushing FB VIDEO as a big thing at the time…) but they certainly can’t be counted out.
AMAZON has only demonstrated a growing appetite for sports since 2018, especially on the International stage.
SONY also has a huge international TV presence here, and previously had the IPL rights before HOTSTAR outbid them in the last auction.
JIO, India’s biggest mobile service provider is also in the mix here.
#FunFact - JIO gives a free year of DISNEY+ HOTSTAR to new prepaid mobile customers (this is similar to the VERIZON MOBILE / DISNEY+ free deals here).
NETFLIX certainly would be a left-field wildcard given their aversion to sports, but they also love a big deal and India is a priority for their growth so you can never count them out.
With DISNEY+ HOTSTAR subcribers projected to grow to 46 million by the end of this year, potentially making up an even larger % of total DISNEY+ global subscribers, DISNEY is likely in for a pricey showdown in 2022 with some deep-pocketed competitors to keep what’s arguably the main draw for DISNEY+ HOTSTAR’s subscriber base.
Even though DISNEY makes little money from their India subscriber base due to those extremely low prices above - if the IPL rights go elsewhere, a sizable hit to the total DISNEY+ global subscriber count could be at hand… which would be huge blow to the image of DISNEY+’s success (and likely the DISNEY stock price).
As you’ve seen, India’s low paying subscribers have rarely been noted in coverage of the booming DIS+ overall subscriber numbers for the past year and a half, so the headlines would likely just read “DISNEY+ Losing Subscribers” vs any caveats that those subscribers weren’t paying much for it in the first place.
So expect Cricket to be an important story on the Global streaming stage in the months ahead.
When you hear the DISNEY+ numbers late today/tomorrow: keep in mind that all DISNEY+ subscribers are not equal even though most reports will treat them as such- roughly 1/3 of them get a year of DISNEY+ for about the same price as a month in the US and EUROPE.
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