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Disney's Hotstar loses 8.4 million subscribers as Ambani's JioCinema ascends

Image Credits: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP / Getty Images

Disney, the global entertainment conglomerate operating a variety of 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, catering to viewers in India and Southeast Asia, lost 4.6 million subscribers during the aforementioned quarter. This marks the second consecutive quarter witnessing a drop in the platform's subscriber count. Since October of last year, Hotstar's total subscriber loss has reached 8.4 million, per Disney's earnings reports. Hotstar, which counts India as its largest market, still has about 53 million subscribers.

The issues for Disney extend beyond subscriber attrition. The company is also witnessing reduced revenue from those who maintain their subscriptions to the streaming service. Hotstar's average revenue per subscriber fell from 74 cents to 59 cents in the quarter ending March.

The Indian streaming platform, a crown jewel in Fox's portfolio to become part of Disney with the acquisition, attracted customers in part by providing livestreaming of cricket matches, particularly the local IPL tournament. However, Disney was outbid for this season's IPL digital rights by Viacom18, a company backed by billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries. To aggressively win customers, JioCinema is streaming this year's IPL for free in India.

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Subscribers loss at Hotstar can also be attributed to the firm ceasing some distribution partnerships with telecom firms.

"Lower impressions were attributable to decreases in average viewership at our sports and non-sports channels. The decrease at our sports channels was primarily due to cricket programming, which reflected airing fewer Indian Premier League (IPL) matches in the current quarter compared to the prior-year quarter as the 2023 IPL season started approximately one week later than the 2022 season," Disney said in its earnings report Wednesday.

Hotstar also recently terminated its licensing agreement 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 forecast Hotstar's subscriber loss to escalate, potentially reaching an additional 7 million by year-end.