Disney, the global entertainment conglomerate that operates several streaming platforms, suffered a 2% contraction in its total subscriber base for the quarter ending March this year. The decline is largely attributed to one specific streaming service: Hotstar.
The Disney+ Hotstar platform, targeting viewers in India and Southeast Asia, lost 4.6 million subscribers in the aforementioned quarter. This is the second consecutive quarter in which the number of subscribers to the platform has declined. As of last October, Hotstar’s total subscriber loss has reached 8.4 million, according to Disney’s earnings reports. Hotstar, which counts India as the largest market, still has about 53 million subscribers.
The problems for Disney go beyond subscriber churn. The company is also witnessing diminished revenues from those who keep their subscription to the streaming service. Hotstar’s average revenue per subscriber fell from 74 cents to 59 cents in the quarter ending March.
Hotstar, once a prized asset in Disney’s acquisition of Fox, is trying to find ways to keep its subscribers happy. The Indian streaming platform attracted customers by offering live streaming of cricket matches especially the local IPL tournament. However, Disney was outbid for this season’s digital IPL rights by Viacom18, a company backed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries. To aggressively gain customers, JioCinema is streaming this year’s IPL for free in India.
“The lower impressions were due to a decrease in average viewership on our sports and non-sports channels. The drop in our sports channels was mainly due to cricket programming, reflecting fewer Indian Premier League (IPL) matches being broadcast in the current quarter compared to last year’s quarter as the 2023 IPL season kicks off about a week later then started the 2022 season. Disney reports this in its earnings report on Wednesday.
Hotstar’s prospects remain bleak as the streaming service grapples with the recent termination of its licensing deal with HBO. The entertainment titan promptly withdrew its entire catalog from the Indian platform, with Viacom18 securing the rights to HBO and additional Warner Bros. content.
Industry analysts predict that Hotstar’s subscriber loss will escalate, potentially reaching another 7 million by the end of the year.