Disney Plus to foray in India with IPL via Hotstar

MUMBAI: Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, is set to roll out its much awaited on-demand streaming service, Disney Plus, in India on March 29th, coinciding with kickoff of the 13th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Disney Plus will be available via Hotstar, the video streaming service of Star India, which is owned by Disney.

ET had earlier reported that Disney Plus is likely to launch via Hotstar. It is expected that Hotstar will be rechristened as ‘Disney Plus Hotstar’.

The announcement was made by Bob Iger, chairman and chief executive of Disney, during the company’s quarterly earnings call on Tuesday.

“We will be launching Disney Plus in India through our Hotstar service on March 29th at the beginning of the IPL cricket season… We see this as a great opportunity to use the proven platform of Hotstar to launch the new Disney Plus service in one of the most populous countries and fastest growing economies in the world,” Iger said.

The company is looking at capitalising on the popularity of IPL.

“It will be priced for the market and launched at a very peak period of time for the IPL… and so, we think it’s an opportune moment, we take advantage of the presence of Star in the market and the millions of subscribers that they also have, we take advantage of the sports tie-in, and we use the interface and the technology that includes the billing that already exists to launch a service, we believe, under very, very optimal circumstances,” Iger said.

The move will finally allow Indian users to watch Disney’s original content including ‘Star Wars’ spin-off series ‘The Mandalorian’ and upcoming Marvel shows like ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’, ‘WandaVision’ and a Loki series.

Currently, Hotstar has three offerings – a free ad-supported service, where it does not offer premium or Indian original content; Hotstar VIP, which at Rs 365 per year offers Indian originals; and Hotstar Premium (Rs 999 per year), which is an ad free offering and has premium English content from Disney, HBO and all live sports, including cricket, Premier League, F1, and tennis.

While the pricing is yet to be finalised, Iger said that the company will offer two categories. “One will be more premium in nature that will include the entire library, so with the original programming and the other one will be more basic that will have the library and not the original programming.”

Disney Plus had launched on November 12th in the US, Canada and the Netherlands, less than two weeks after Apple’s streaming service, Apple TV Plus. On the very first day, the service recorded over 10 million subscribers on the first day.

Iger said that in three months, the service has 28.6 million paid subscribers. While Hotstar has not disclosed paid subscribers in India, it has claimed of over 300 million monthly active users during IPL.

In India, Disney Plus will have to compete with not just Indian players like MX Player, ZEE5, Sony LIV, and Voot, but also with international rivals like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Prior to India, Disney Plus will be rolled out across parts of Western Europe, including the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy on March 24th.

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