IPL boosts Hotstar's subscriber base, accounts for 30% of Disney+ members

Hotstar was taken to Singapore last month and will be made available in other Asian markets in the months ahead
Disney+ Hotstar, the streaming service of entertainment major Walt Disney in India, now constitutes 30 per cent of the latter's overall subscriber base, making it the largest market for the American giant, the management of the company said on Friday in an investor day briefing. 

The total subscriber base of Disney+ is 86.8 million as of December 2, the company revealed, implying that the Indian streaming service has a 26-million member base, up from 18.5 million subscribers in the September quarter. 

Analysts point to the presence of big properties such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), which was held this year between September and November and was streamed on Disney+ Hotstar, apart from being broadcast on Star Sports. 

The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India had revealed that the television and digital platforms of Disney-Star had notched up high viewership numbers as stay-at-home consumers tuned in to watch the tournament. 

Rebecca Campbell, chairman, international operations and direct-to-consumer, the Walt Disney Company, said the firm was "uniquely positioned" in India due to a growing middle class as well as existing operations under the Star network. 

"India is a promising market opportunity. We are uniquely positioned to succeed in the country due to our presence with Star TV and Hotstar," Campbell said. 

Disney+ Hotstar currently offers content in seven Indian languages and is adding about 17,000 hours of original local-level programming every year, she said.

This included Bollywood titles apart from fiction and non-fiction shows. The Indian strategy will be used in other Asian markets such as Indonesia, where Disney+ Hotstar has been unveiled in September, Campbell said. 

Hotstar was taken to Singapore last month and will be made available in other Asian markets in the months ahead. 

Disney also laid out plans regarding the Star brand, which is best known for its TV services in India. The entertainment major now proposes to make it a part of its streaming operations, launching it as a dedicated channel within the Disney+ app in Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand by February next year. 

In Latin America, the service will be launched as a standalone digital platform called Star+ in June 2021. Apart from general entertainment content from Disney's studios and local originals, the service will offer live sports from ESPN including soccer leagues, grand slam tennis, and other tournaments.

The move to convert Star into a streaming service comes as Disney puts greater emphasis on digital operations versus traditional broadcasting as people increasingly migrate online. 

The entertainment giant said that it now has 137 million paid subscribers across its various streaming services, up from 120 million in the September quarter. The company said that it was targeting between 300-350 million global subscribers across its platforms by end of 2024, with 230-260 million subscribers likely to come from its flagship Disney+ digital platform.

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