Earlier this year, it was reported that Disney has been looking at its options with regards to its business in India, which is called Disney Star and is formerly known as Star India, which it acquired when it purchased 20th Century Fox in 2019. Disney Star includes the streaming service Disney+ Hotstar, film studios such as Star Studios, an array of over seventy linear channels, and much more.
In the past few months, Disney has been having talks with many different businesses, including Reliance Industries Ltd, Sony, Blackstone, Sun TV and New Delhi TV, about potentially selling some or all of its assets in India. The most recent report has put Reliance Industries Ltd as the favourite to pick up some or all of Disney’s assets in India, which are estimated as being worth between $8 billion and $10 billion.
Many Wall Street analysts had been expecting to hear more about the potential sale of Disney Star, especially following the news that Disney is set to pay Comcast over $8 billion for its 33% stake in Hulu in December. However, no major new details were revealed, but during the recent quarterly investors call, Disney CEO Bob Iger was asked about their business in India and if they are going to stay in the market or sell Star India, to which he replied:
First of all, in India, our linear business actually does quite well. Yes, it’s making money. But we know that other parts of that business are challenged for us and for others. And we are looking, I’ll call it expensively.
I know I’ve said this before, it always gets me in trouble. But we’re considering our options there. We have an opportunity to strengthen our hand. It is now maybe the most populous country in the world or maybe just still second to China and about to pass them.
We’d like to stay in that market. But we’re also looking to see whether we can strengthen our hand obviously, improve the bottom line.
Disney also changed around how it was presenting its financial results, separating out the Star India assets, which have shown how the division is down on the previous year. However, it was able to increase the average monthly revenue per paid Disney+ Hotstar subscriber from $0.59 to $0.70 due to
a lower mix of wholesale subscribers and higher advertising revenue. But this is still a massive difference to how much per average Disney makes in domestically ($7.50) and internationally ($6.10) in countries without Disney+ Hotstar.
One of the most significant issues Disney has been having with its Disney+ Hotstar platform in India, is the drastic reduction in subscribers since it lost the Indian Cricket League, which was going to cost billions in dollars to retain the rights, but now Disney+ Hotstar in India has just 37.6 million subscribers, down seven per cent from the previous quarter and down over 20 million subscribers from the same time last year, when it had 61.3 million subscribers.
Bob Iger’s comments continue to seem non-commital, since a deal is likely not yet complete, but it is very obvious that Disney is going to be making major changes to how it operates in India. Could that be selling the linear channels and just offering a Disney+ Hotstar service, similar to how Disney+ operates everywhere else, while also licensing out content to linear channels. That would keep them still in India, but also potentially strengthen their hand, without spending more money.
What do you think Disney is going to do 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.