Earlier this year, it was reported that Disney was looking into potential options for its businesses in India, and according to a new report from Bloomberg, Disney has preliminary talks with potential buyers for its India streaming and television business, including billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd.
When Disney purchased 20th Century Fox in 2019, it acquired Star India, which has over 70 linear television channels, a film studio, plus the streaming service Hotstar. Disney quickly rebranded the streaming service to Disney+ Hotstar and was able to add millions of subscriptions to its books. But in the past year, Disney+ Hotstar has lost millions of subscribers due to Disney not spending billions of dollars on acquiring the Indian Premiere League cricket rights. Disney has been making massive cost-cutting moves across the company, which has seen over 7000 staff members cut from their positions and reports of Disney looking to sell off many different assets, including ABC and even a minority stake in ESPN.
Disney has been considering several options with potential buyers, including selling its entire Disney Star business or just selling a combination of access, such as the sports rights, linear channels or the regional streaming service, Disney+ Hotstar.
A spokesperson for Reliance has said that it “evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis” and will make the required disclosures when necessary, declining to comment further.
These discussions are ongoing and may not necessarily come to anything. With Disney looking to move away from the linear television business, it has already shut down linear channels in many countries worldwide. It has been speaking with companies like Nexstar and the Byron Allen Media Group about potentially selling some of its linear channels, like the local ABC networks. So, seeing Disney do something similar in India wouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Selling off Disney+ Hotstar would be a major shift in strategy. Disney Bob Iger has previously said that they’ve been looking at its international markets to determine which are more profitable since “Not all markets are created equal”. He has said that Disney would prioritise its marketing spend behind more profitable markets.
One of the biggest issues for Disney with India, is how, while it has more subscribers than other countries, due to the size and population of India, Disney makes much less per subscriber, only around 70 cents a month, compared to over $7 a month from a subscriber in Europe or North America. While Wall Street and investors were looking for subscriber growth, focusing on India was extremely important for Disney+ Hotstar, but with a focus on profitability, things are now very different.
After years of expanding through its acquisitions of Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, it looks like Disney is trimming down its business to focus more on its core business, streaming, movies and theme parks. Disney has many different options, but something will likely change within India. And if Disney were to sell off Disney Star, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the Star branding dropped, (possibly to be replaced with Hulu), since the Star brand was originally from India.
Could Disney just sell off its linear businesses in India, trim down Star Studios and focus on just offering Disney+ in India, in line with other countries? There are many options available to Disney.
Do you think Disney should sell some or all of its assets in India? Let us know on social media!
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.