Disney Gambles BIG in Last Ditch Effort to Salvage Performance in One of its Largest Markets

disney plus hotstar india free cricket
Credit: Thomas Hawk, Flickr; Disney

After facing some major setbacks in the streaming wars in India, Disney is now giving the market a well-placed perk with free cricket on smartphones and tablets.

The Walt Disney Company has had its fair share of troubles recently, between the issues with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike in Hollywood, and Disney CEO Bob Iger’s less-than-savory comments, which have resulted in him getting roasted online. In addition, the Disney Parks haven’t had the best track record lately, with guests all complaining about the current state of the Disney theme parks. In addition, Disney’s stock recently hit its lowest price in nine years.

the walt disney company

The Walt Disney Company / Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Invests in the “Most Challenging” Global Market, Continues Cutting US Disney+ Content

Disney Suffers Major Streaming Loss

Earlier this year, the numbers demonstrated that Disney had suffered an incredible loss in one of its largest markets. During the earnings call, Bob Iger admitted that Disney+ had lost millions of subscribers, and a large chunk of this loss came from the Indian population. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal also argued about the possibility of Disney+ Hotstar in India losing eight to ten million subscribers.

In order to combat all of this, Disney has now announced a new change.

Disney CEO Bob Iger

Disney CEO Bob Iger / Credit: glennia, Flickr

Disney Offers Free Cricket to Indian Subscribers

Indians are known to be big fans of the sport cricket, and in what might end up being a particularly astute move, Disney is offering free streaming of the sport on smartphones and tablets. As Deadline reported, the company will stream live matches of the Asia Cup from August 30, as well as the cricket World Cup, which is being hosted by India, in October and November.

Disney+ Hotstar head Sajith Sivanandan described the change as a new “hybrid model” wherein the strategy is aimed at “boosting advertising revenues by increasing the volume of smartphone users accessing the service for free, while at the same time pulling in new subscribers for its paid plans.”

disney world crowds low

Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Disney

Per sources, the company is viewing free cricket almost like a Hail Mary. “We were bullish on Indian subscribers’ propensity to pay. That’s not worked out,” an internal source told Reuters. “Free cricket is the only bullet left.”

Only time will tell if this shot will turn out in their favor.

Disney and Hotstar India

Disney acquired Hotstar in 2019 during the Walt Disney Company’s $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox. At the time, Fox already owned the rights to the Indian Premier League— a men’s Twenty20 (T20) cricket league that is annually held in India and contested by ten city-based franchise teams.

However, when businessman Mukesh Ambani’s JioCinema bagged the Indian Premier League rights, JioCinema started streaming matches for free, and subscribers started leaving Hotstar. Disney then hit an all-time low when the service lost around 21 million users from a base of 61 million by July 2023.

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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