Disney+ will be launched in India on March 29, Disney CEO Robert Iger said in Disney’s earnings call on February 4. It will be offered through Hotstar by rebranding Hotstar’s VIP and Premium subscriptions tiers to Disney+ Hotstar, which will be a “bundled” product. At present, Hotstar Premium is available for ₹299/month and ₹999/year. Hotstar VIP is available for ₹365/year. Please note that Hotstar is owned by Star which is a subsidiary of Disney.
Disney+ was launched in November 2019 and is currently available in USA, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Canada. Although there are no “encumbrances” in the rest of the world, lower broadband penetration in certain regions, including India, means that the total market is not available, Iger said during the earnings call. Note that India has over 635 million Internet connections, around 80% of which are broadband.
Content: The complete Disney library will be available to Indian users, including content from Twenty-First Century Fox (which Disney acquired in March 2019). Although HBO is owned by Warner, since Hotstar has exclusive streaming contract with it, HBO’s original programming will also be available.
Disney is betting on international markets for growth: In addition to India, Disney+ will be launched in UK and Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Austria on March 24 and in Belgium, Portugal and the Nordics in summer. Iger said that most “two-thirds” of subscribers are expected to come from these markets.
- Paid subscribers: 26.5 million at end of December 2019; as of February 5, it had 28.6 million paid subscribers. Roughly 50% came directly from disneyplus.com, 20% from Verizon, Iger revealed during the earnings call.
- ARPU: $5.56 on a $6.99 monthly subscription
Direct-to-consumer and International which includes Disney+, Hotstar and Hulu, accounted for $3.99 billion (from 0.9 billion in December 2018 quarter) of the total Disney revenues. Segment operating loss increased from $136 million to $693 million due to launch of Disney+, consolidation of Hulu and higher loss at ESPN+. Income from Twenty-First Century Fox businesses, including Star which owns Hotstar, partially offset this loss.
What about Hulu? Disney reorganised Hulu to integrate it into Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer segment. Iger made it clear that Hulu’s international expansion would happen only after Disney+. Disney took full operational control of Hulu in May 2019 after it agreed to buy Comcast’s one-third stake in the company for at least $5.8 billion in a delayed sale in 2024. Through its purchase of Twenty-First Century Fox, Disney already had a 60% share in Hulu.
- Paid subscribers: 30.4 million by December 2019
- Revenues: 30.4 million (29% increase over December 2018 quarter)
- ARPU for SVOD Only: $13.15 (9% decrease from December 2018)
- ARPU for Live TV + SVOD: $59.47 (14% increase over December 2018)
Online Content Regulation in India
Disney has moved up its schedule for Disney+ in India as streaming platforms in India are considering how to regulate the sector. Disney’s earnings were released the same day MediaNama reported that the Internet and Mobile Association of India is releasing a new content code to govern content on online streaming platforms that will lead to the setting up of an industry self-regulatory body called the Digital Content Complaints Council (DCCC). Hotstar is one of the five signatories of the new code. Other streaming platforms, that haven’t signed the code, raised multiple concerns about the code: lack of transparency and due process, non-participatory nature of the code formation, false representation as an “industry code” given that it only has 5 signatories.