Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Disney+ Hotstar loses 12.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter ended June

Over the last nine months, the OTT platform has lost 20.9 million paid subscribers, after losing the IPL digital media rights to JioCinema

Naini Thaker
Published: Aug 10, 2023 03:03:49 PM IST
Updated: Aug 10, 2023 03:10:20 PM IST

Disney+ Hotstar loses 12.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter ended JuneIn the June-ended quarter alone, the platform lost 24 percent (12.5 million) paid subscribers—down from 52.9 million to 40.4 million. Image: Shutterstock

In the last nine months, OTT platform Disney+ Hotstar has lost a total of 20.9 million paid subscribers. In the June-ended quarter alone, the platform lost 24 percent (12.5 million) paid subscribers—down from 52.9 million to 40.4 million. 

Losing the Indian Premier League (IPL) digital media rights to JioCinema has proved to be a tough loss for the platform. The IPL rights had helped it become one of the largest-subscribed OTT platforms in India—it touched 61.3 million subscribers in the last quarter of 2022. Disney+ Hotstar’s strategy to offer the ICC Cricket World Cup free, JioCinema offering a wide variety of free content and HBO content moving away to the competitor have added to Disney+ Hotstar’s troubles. 

However, experts reckon that the subscriber loss has now largely bottomed out. “We may see a stable subscriber base or marginal decline over the near term; in terms of revenue impact, the potential revenue loss will remain in the range of 50 to 60 percent, as IPL was a large revenue contributor on AVOD,” states Karan Taurani, senior vice president, Elara Capital. 

Though subscribers have dropped significantly, the Average Monthly Revenue Per Paid Subscriber remains at $0.59 in Q3FY23. Taurani adds, “We don’t expect any respite in this too, as cricket (key World Cup property) is available free on Disney + Hotstar.” Outside of Disney+ Hotstar, for other international markets, the platform has seen a 2 percent increase in paid subscriber base—from 58.6 million (April) to 59.7 million (July). The company follows an October-to-September fiscal cycle. 

To address these issues, Walt Disney Co’s CEO Bob Iger stated that the company plans to implement a price rise for their ad-free Disney+ and Hulu plans from October. Additionally, they will be including practices to curb password sharing, similar to what Netflix has implemented. “In this competitive market, the only saving grace for Disney+ Hotstar will be focusing on India originals, including regional language content and movies,” adds Taurani. 

Also read: Are steaming platforms and non-Hindi content stealing Bollywood's thunder?

Overall, experts reckon the growth for India’s OTT industry is expected to be muted, simply because a lot of premium content is being offered for free on platforms like JioCinema. This will also delay profitability. 

In the meantime, what happens to Star? 

As per a Wall Street Journal report, Disney is exploring either a joint venture or the sale of its broadcasting business—Star India. Though it is still early, news reports suggest that Disney has engaged in discussions with at least one bank to explore ways to assist the growth of its India business. 

Revenues for international channels for the quarter also dropped by 20 percent to $1.2 billion. As per the press release: “Operating results decreased to a loss of $87 million from income of $166 million. The decrease in operating results was primarily due to lower advertising revenue and, to a lesser extent, an unfavourable foreign exchange impact. The decrease in advertising revenue was due to lower rates attributable to IPL cricket programming.” 

Disney’s focus, along with many of its competitors, is shifting towards digital. In 2019, they acquired the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox for $71.3 billion, hence taking over Star India and Hotstar—the latter being key to Disney’s global expansion plans. “They want to retain IP, Studios and OTT, and broadcast doesn’t fit in this strategy since it offers very limited IP. Hence, the value for broadcast will be much lower,” adds Taurani.