Following the purchase of 20th Century Fox, Disney acquired Star India, which was later rebranded into Disney Star. The company operates Disney+ Hotstar, which has over 50 million subscribers, along with more than 70 TV channels in eight languages, making it the largest television and entertainment network in India, in addition to Star Studios, which releases theatrical films.
Earlier this summer, it was revealed that Disney was looking into potentially selling some or all of its assets in India, including its linear television business, studios and Disney+ Hotstar. Disney has been looking to reduce its debt following the purchase of 20th Century Fox, plus other major issues such as the pandemic and increased costs from pivoting to streaming. Disney’s Indian business isn’t doing as well, following the loss of the IPL cricket rights, Disney+ Hotstar lost over 20 million subscribers, and the business in general in India hasn’t been doing as well as they would like.
According to Bloomberg, Disney is now in preliminary discussions with potential buyers, including billionaires Gautam Adani (New Delhi TV) and Kalanithi Maran (Sun TV), for its India streaming and television business. It was previously reported that Disney was talking with Reliance Industries Ltd.
Disney has been investigating different options for its business in India, including gauging the interest of private equity funds and potentially selling some of its assets in India, such as sports rights and regional streaming service Disney+ Hotstar.
These deals are still in the very early stages, and a deal might not necessarily happen, but both New Delhi TV and Sun TV would be able to expand their business throughout the region if they were able to secure some of Disney’s Indian assets.
It’s unclear what Disney’s plans may involve. They could just sell off their linear assets or studios like Star Studios. Disney+ Hotstar has undergone major changes over the past few years, following the loss of the IPL cricket rights and licensed content from HBO. There could be several options available for Disney in India, such as splitting Disney+ Hotstar into two, Hotstar continuing to carry the Indian content, while Disney+ becomes similar to how it works everywhere worldwide, with less local content. Bob Iger has also said that for them, not all countries are equal, and Disney+ will begin to operate differently depending on if it’s profitable, including potentially leaving some markets and deprioritising local content in others.
One major problem Disney has had with its Disney+ Hotstar business, is that while there are millions of subscribers, they bring in much less per subscriber than outside the country, averaging around 60 cents per month, compared to over $7 a month elsewhere.
With the world moving more to streaming, Disney has been pivoting away from linear television, including looking into selling linear channels in the US. It has already closed down its linear channels in many countries worldwide already, so shifting away from linear television and even selling off its studios within India, wouldn’t be a huge surprise. Especially following comments this year about Disney wanting to focus less on international content and wanting to build around global brands and content. Personally, I could easily see Disney selling off its linear business and studios in India, as completely leaving the streaming business in India would be a huge knock on Disney’s global plans and potentially leave the most populated country in the world, without Disney+. But Disney is also looking to secure its long-term future, so it could go either way!
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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.