Disney+ Hotstar, a major player in India’s ever-evolving OTT industry, has taken a bold step to regain its foothold in the Indian market. In a bid to reconnect with former subscribers and expand its reach, the platform is offering free access to two prestigious cricket tournaments: the Asia Cup and the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. This strategic move follows the platform’s successful IPL 2023 viewership and aims to make cricket more accessible to over 540 million mobile users across India.
Disney+ Hotstar’s journey began in 2019 when Disney acquired Indian streaming service Hotstar and its assets from 21st Century Fox for a staggering $71 billion. The platform transitioned to a paid subscription model in 2020 with hopes of reaching 100 million users. However, these ambitious goals fell short as users began unsubscribing when cricket content became less available.
The turning point came when Mukesh Ambani retained IPL rights for $2.9 billion, allowing Jio Cinema to broadcast cricket matches for free. By July, this move had cost Disney+ Hotstar 21 million subscribers. Facing these challenges, Disney made substantial investments in cricket rights, securing broadcasting rights for 2024 and 2027 with a $3 billion payment. Simultaneously, TV broadcasting rights were acquired by Zee for $1.5 billion, potentially generating Rs 2 crore in advertisement revenue, albeit with a prolonged path to profitability.
Now, Disney+ Hotstar has embraced a transformative strategy: offering free access to cricket’s premier events on mobile devices. This decision was driven by the resounding success of Disney Star’s IPL 2023 viewership. By removing the paywall for the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Disney+ Hotstar aims to cater to a broader audience and nurture India’s cricket ecosystem.
Sajith Sivanandan, Head of Disney+ Hotstar, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to enhancing the viewer experience and expanding its reach. He noted, “Making the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup available to a wider audience, we believe, will help us grow the overall ecosystem.” This move solidifies Disney+ Hotstar as a premier destination for cricket enthusiasts.
The platform consistently attracted large audiences during major cricket events like the Asia Cup 2022, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2023, and the India vs. Sri Lanka tournament. By offering free access to these prestigious tournaments, Disney+ Hotstar aims to bridge the gap between cricket enthusiasts and world-class sporting action, fostering excitement and accessibility among fans across India.
Disney+ Hotstar’s decision to provide free access to the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup is a pivotal moment in the Indian streaming industry. It reflects the company’s determination to regain its position and make cricket more accessible. This move has the potential to reshape the cricket streaming landscape and bring thrilling cricket experiences to millions of mobile users, marking a significant milestone in the industry.