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Disney+ launches on Hotstar in India

Exclusive Disney+ content, including The Mandalorian and a series of older Disney titles previously unavailable on Hotstar, are now live on the platform. Disney-owned streaming brand’s originals catalogue has largely been made available on Hotstar, MediaNama observed. Some main titles not associated with Disney’s core brand, such as The Simpsons, however, have not been made available. No separate pricing for Disney+ content has been announced yet, and most titles with Indian language dubbing have the original English version available for Premium subscribers, while dubbed versions are on the less expensive VIP tier. MediaNama has reached out to Disney and Hotstar for comment.

In February, Walt Disney Corporation CEO Bob Iger had said that the service would release on March 29. It seems that Hotstar has made the catalogue live earlier than that, including a rebranding of the iOS version of the Hotstar app as “Disney+ Hotstar” (hat tip to Ashutosh Kale). This rebranding has not been extended to other platforms yet. For the moment, Disney+ content is also using Hotstar’s video player, with a slightly updated version of the Hotstar logo on the top-right corner and a Hotstar icon on the bottom right.

Same player, quality

Some titles, like Timon & Pumbaa, seem to be cropped from their 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9. Disney+ did something similar in the US, leading to criticism from fans; the company later said they would allow users to pick from the original and new aspect ratio for that show. It is unclear if this kind of option will be made available to fans in India.

While not all titles are now exclusively on Hotstar — some films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are also available on Netflix, for instance — the formal addition of recent Disney+ originals to a streaming service that also has HBO and Showtime series makes Hotstar a force to reckon with for other streaming services, especially at the current price.

Hotstar cautious in run-up to launch

In the run-up to the Disney+ launch, Hotstar has been cautious to avoid any government regulation that could complicate its business. It censored an episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight criticising prime minister Narendra Modi. In addition the company has been among a small group spearheading an effort to rally streaming services around a self-regulating committee that they argue will reduce government interference. This committee, if realised, would be along the lines of the Broadcast Content Complaints Council.

The streaming services’ equivalent is called the Digital Content Complaints Council. The BCCC and the proposed DCCC are similar in the sense that they are both open-ended, and in theory not very restrictive. But in practice, the BCCC’s mere presence — in spite of being perceived as a liberal organisation — has led to over-censorship on TV channels. In October, we had explored how a similar code would affect streaming services like Netflix.

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Seeing that neither company has spoken a word on the John Oliver episode in particular, it is not clear if these efforts and censorship are directly related to Disney+’s launch.

This is a developing story. We will keep updating it.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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