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Disney+ set to enter India market in March 2020

Disney will rebrand existing Hotstar VIP and Premium subscription tiers to Disney+ Hotstar.

Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

Online streaming service Disney+ will launch in India on March 29, Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company said Tuesday during the earnings call for the first quarter of fiscal 2020.

It will debut in India through on-demand video service Hotstar on the date that marks the beginning of one of the most viewed sporting events, the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket season. IPL is the South Asian nation’s most popular annual cricketing tournament.

American media and entertainment giant The Walt Disney Company aka Disney unveiled its new streaming service Disney+ in the domestic market on November 12 last year at the price point of USD 6.99 a month. Within just one and a half months of its launch, Disney+ paid subscribers reached 26.5 million, according to the company’s recent quarterly earnings report.

In India, where Disney competes with global streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime with on-demand video service Hotstar, which had landed on its lap when it acquired 21st Century Fox in 2018, it will roll out Disney+ “bundled with 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,” Iger said.

According to a TechCrunch report late last year, it was anticipated that the service would be rolled out in the world’s second-most populous country in the second half of 2020 after the IPL concludes. But contrary to everyone’s predictions, the company is going to use IPL as the launchpad for Disney+ as well. Previously, Hotstar became the market leader in India with about 29% market share, riding primarily on the success of IPL

“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,” Iger added.

The media and entertainment conglomerate said it will rebrand existing Hotstar VIP and Premium subscription tiers to Disney plus Hotstar. While the US giant didn’t reveal the specifics about the price points—an important factor for a price-sensitive market like India—it said that there’ll be two primary products that it will bring 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,” Iger noted.

Disney+ foray in India will follow the service’s launch across multiple territories in Western Europe, and the company “is going to continue to roll out across the world going into 2021 including Latin America.”

To tap the Indian market, where Netflix expects to get its next 100 million subscribers over the next few years, major streaming services have been localizing the content and investing money in bringing out original regional content. However, Disney seems confident that with its strong brand in India, it won’t need to adapt much.

Iger said that although India has lower broadband penetration as compared to other markets, it presents a huge opportunity globally. He believes that the Disney name and the family nature of the product will resonate extremely well with the Indian audience.

“I don’t really think that we necessarily need to do much adjusting as it relates to the product that has been designed for the U.S. except to make sure obviously that the programs are dubbed in the local language properly and in high quality and secondly that we have enough local programming either to meet local quotas or simply to address local taste,” Iger said.

While Disney+ showcases content from iconic entertainment brands including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, the company plans to focus on original content. According to the company’s statement mid-last year, in its first year Disney+ will release more than 25 original series and 10 original films, documentaries, and specials including “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” and “Marvel’s What If…?”