Uday Shankar, chairman, Star and Disney India and president, The Walt Disney Co. Asia Pacific. Walt Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox in June 2018 brings Star India, Fox Star Studios, ESPN, Hulu and Hotstar under one umbrella. (Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint)

New Delhi: Last Thursday, Walt Disney Co. announced the November 2019 launch of its highly anticipated, ad-free video streaming service, Disney+, in the US. However, the company is unlikely to launch the platform in India and, instead, route the original content created for the new OTT (over-the-top) service, and its movie library, to Indian audiences through Hotstar, the video streaming service owned by Star India, people familiar with the development said.

Walt Disney had acquired Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. in a $71 billion cash and stock deal in June 2018. That makes Star India, Fox Star Studios and Hotstar in India, a part of Walt Disney.

Content from other Disney units, including ESPN and Hulu, are already available on Hotstar, and Disney+ will be a valuable addition. To be sure, Hotstar plans to localize Disney+ movies and shows by dubbing, or by adding subtitles in Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Hotstar’s own original content, titled Hotstar Specials, are currently available in seven Indian languages.

India will probably be the only market in the world, wherein services such as Hulu, ESPN and now Disney+ will exist under one umbrella, and not independently. Further, while globally Disney+ will be priced at $7, Star plans to continue with its current subscription plans—Hotstar Premium ( 299 per month and 999 per year) and Hotstar VIP ( 365 per year)—in India, even after the launch of Disney+.

An email query to a Star India spokesperson asking for details remained unanswered.

To be sure, the decision to bring Disney+ content under Hotstar is based on the latter’s wide reach, besides the potential of the Indian market.

According to Disney’s own estimates, revealed at the Investor Day 2019 held last week, Hotstar clocked in 300 million monthly active users (MAU) in March. It is also the number one entertainment app in the country in terms of MAU, downloads and revenue, according to the FICCI-EY media and entertainment industry report 2019.

Further, Disney estimated that India has the largest youth population in the world with over 600 million below the age of 25.

“Hunger for content and ability to pay are unlocking growth for consumer payments in video. India has become a magnet for all media and content companies,” Uday Shankar, chairman, Star and Disney India, and president, The Walt Disney Co., Asia Pacific, said at the event.

The OTT market in India is buoyant and there is no player that would not want to be part of the growth story, said Navin Khemka, chief executive officer, GroupM-owned media agency Mediacom South Asia.

“Disney+ content would be focused towards the urban elite with its mix of Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic titles,” said Vijay Shenoy, senior vice president, strategy and business development, digital agency Langoor.

“This could potentially make the whole Disney OTT family the largest player in India in terms of users,” said Jehil Thakkar, partner, Deloitte India. “But they will need a significant amount of local content to actually make a dent in the market.” To be sure, in the last 8-10 months, American players, including Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, have had to focus on local content to woo audiences in India.


Categorized in: