Disney Aims to Revive Streaming Business in India Through Free Cricket on Smartphones

Aug 29, 2023

Disney Aims to Revive Streaming Business in India Through Free Cricket on Smartphones Image

Walt Disney is reviving its footprint in the Indian market by providing free cricket material on cellphones in an effort to outmanoeuvre rivals and strengthen its streaming business. The streaming service platform Disney+ Hotstar announced intentions in June to give all mobile phone customers who use their application free access to the Asia Cup and the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup events.

This creative strategy aims to increase advertising revenue in addition to viewership in order to mitigate the effects of a major subscriber decrease, as reported by Reuters on Tuesday.

Disney+ Hotstar hopes to draw more than "450 million-plus customers to tune in" throughout the 48-day duration of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup, which is being hosted by India, by making cricket material freely available on mobile devices. According to a Disney research titled "Festival of Cricket 2023," this ambitious objective implies a significant rise over the 300 million spectators during the previous World Cup in 2019.

According to the document, the corporation hopes to quadruple the number of concurrent viewers it had in 2019 by reaching 50 million during the World Cup.

This tactical attempt intends to eclipse the 56 percent higher concurrent viewing attained by Mukesh Ambani's JioCinema during this year's IPL finals in May, as well as past viewership records.

According to the earnings report released in May, Disney+ Hotstar, which targets viewers in India and Southeast Asia, saw a fall of 4.6 million paying viewers in the January-March quarter, which resulted in an 8 percent drop in its subscriber base to 52.9 million.

The company had credited the Indian Premier League (IPL), which increased subscribers in cricket-crazy India, for its early development. Disney, however, suffered a significant financial loss as a result of losing the IPL streaming rights.

JioCinema, a streaming service owned by Reliance Industries, saw record-breaking viewership during the tournament's finale after securing the free streaming rights to IPL 2023. This represented a change from Disney's prior role as the IPL's official streaming partner.

Disney's financial performance in India is expected to be under strain as customer attrition picks up steam and results in a one-third drop in user numbers between October 2022 and July 2023.

The new strategy of providing free cricket material via tablets and mobile devices is viewed as a vital shift to revive revenue streams. This approach, known as a "hybrid model," attempts to increase smartphone viewership in order to increase advertising revenue while also attracting new users to the paid Hotstar TV app, where cricket content will continue to be available only to customers with premium subscriptions.

The head of Disney+ Hotstar, Sajith Sivanandan, provided more detail on this approach, saying, "This strategy is about 'how we build a model which will allow us to drive two revenue streams more meaningfully.'"

Disney is also releasing interactive commercials as part of this new strategy that take viewers to a brand's WhatsApp chat so they can easily make purchases. Hotstar trials will be available through QR codes that will be placed on an estimated 400 million Coca-Cola bottles as part of a cooperation. Through this effort, Disney hopes to convert 80,000 trial users into paying customers.