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Disney+ to launch in India through Hotstar on March 29

Manish Singh
Signage for the Disney+ streaming service is displayed during the D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Walt Disney Co. is turning the D23 Expo, the biennial fan conclave, into a big push for its new streaming services. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hotstar, a lesser-known Disney-owned service which has set global streaming records, is about to have a very busy few months. Disney plans to bring its on-demand streaming service Plus in India through Hotstar on March 29, a little sooner than expected, the company said Tuesday.

In an earnings call with analysts, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said the entertainment conglomerate will launch the service in one of the world's largest entertainment markets at the beginning of the next edition of the IPL cricket tournament, the most noteworthy event on Hotstar all year. He also revealed that Disney+ had amassed 26.5 million paying subscribers worldwide.

TechCrunch reported in November that the company was planning to launch its streaming service in India by the second half of the year, followed by its entry in Southeast Asian markets. We also reported that by end of Q1, the company was likely to raise the subscription price of Hotstar service, a Star India-owned service it owns as part of its acquisition of Fox.

Hotstar, at its peak, reported more than 100 million daily active users and 300 million monthly active users last year. The service, which currently offers its premium offering for about $14 a year, also features shows and movies from HBO, ABC and Showtime. It also offers an ad-supported free tier, which as of two years ago, included about 80 percent of the catalog.

Iger declined to share specifics about how much the company would charge for Disney+ featuring Hotstar, but he said it will bring “two primary products” into India.

“One will be more premium in nature that will include the entire library of original programming and the other one will be more basic that will have the library and not the original programming priced for the market and launched at a very peak period of time for the IPL, the Cricket League,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Hotstar competes with dozens of video streaming services in India, including its global rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. In recent years, all of these services have made original series and movies for the Indian market. The most notable original series on Hotstar is the remake of "The Office." Netflix's monthly subscription tiers start from $2.8 (for mobile-only viewing) while Prime Video charges $14 a year. Apple TV+ costs $1.4 a month in India.

Iger said the company will rebrand the premium tier of Hotstar to "Disney plus Hotstar." "We see this as a great opportunity to use the proven platform of Hotstar to launch the new Disney+ service in one of the most populous countries and fastest growing economies in the world."