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The Importance of India In the Streaming Wars

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

Disney Plus had a launch for the ages, adding over 73 million subscribers in its first year, but not all of those subscribers were in the US. In fact, approximately 25% of subscribers were in India. India has emerged as a key battleground in the streaming wars with Netflix(NFLX), Amazon(AMZN), Disney(DIS), ViacomCBS(VIAC), and others, who are pouring resources to try to capture scale in this large and valuable market.

In India the number one streaming service is Hotstar (owned by Disney) accounting for 41% of the market and consisting of over 400 million users of their free with ads platform. For paid streaming, Hotstar had a total of 6 million users split between their VIP and Premium subscription plans when they were acquired by Disney. This number is growing now that they have been purchased by Disney(now almost 19 million about 25% of Disney+ users). Hotstar now offers all of the Disney+ content(called Disney+ Hotstar) as well as the streaming rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) Cricket. To give you an idea of the popularity of cricket viewership in India, 411 million people watched the IPL championship in 2019.

In addition to IPL, Disney+ Hotstar has the rights to many popular shows in India including those from other US competitor networks such Game of Thrones, Friends, Modern Family as well as tons of Disney and Fox’s own movie content and 61 channels that are in 9 local languages. While this is more premium content than the American Disney+, Indian viewers pay the equivalent of around $5 for the VIP plan and $14 for the Premium plan for the full year as opposed to the US’s $6.99 per month plan or $69.99 per year, so the huge subscriber market is offset in part by the lower prices points. Similar to their approaches in the US, Disney has targeted a lower price point initially to quickly scoop up market share.