When the Walt Disney Company purchased 20th Century Fox, it didn’t just pick up an extra 30% stake in Hulu. It also gained control of Star India, a network of TV stations and a streaming service called, Hotstar, which is the biggest streaming platform in India.
Last year, Hotstar was rebranded into Disney+ Hotstar and accounts for 40% of the total subscription to Disney+ worldwide. With Disney+ Hotstar also being launched in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. And Disney has gone on to use the Star name for its general entertainment branding around the world.
But many people aren’t aware that Hotstar is also a streaming service in many countries, including in the US, Canada, Singapore and in the UK. This streaming service offers Star India’s domestic entertainment and live sports content to people within these countries. Hotstar currently has over 100,000 hours of TV content and movies across 9 languages.
Recently, during an interview with Variety, Sunil Rayan, president and head of Disney Plus Hotstar, spoke about bringing some of the best Hotstar original content to Hulu in the United States and on Star On Disney+ internationally.
“It is an objective for us that we want creators out of India to have a global platform. Because if we feel like we can provide a global platform, more creators will actually come to us and we want to see more Indian creators be accessible throughout the globe.”
Bringing some major big-budget films and series from India onto Disney+ and Hulu would mean the content is available to a much wider audience. And should this content be popular, perhaps, it could lead to Hotstar being completely merged in with Disney+ and Hulu.
And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, as only last year, Hotstar went through a rebranding, to look very similar to Disney+, even using the same colour scheme. Which certainly seems like a way of getting people familiar with the design of Disney+.
There are lots of reasons why moving Hotstar into Hulu and Disney+ would be a good move. From Disney’s point of view, it would reduce costs. Instead of running a smaller niche app, they can incorporate it into a larger platform. They would still need specialists dealing with the content and advertising it. For example, here in the UK, the app has only barely 1000 Twitter followers or 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. Currently, the app is being propped up internationally by the success of Disney+ Hotstar in India.
Both Netflix and Amazon have hundreds of films and TV shows available to subscribers, so the audience is already used to watching Indian content intermixed with everything else. Both Amazon and Netflix has been making great gains in expanding the type of content available.
Hotstar subscribers would could also benefit from a much more supported product. If you look at the current Google Reviews for the Hotstar app, there are more negative reviews than positive. Highlighting that there is a problem that isn’t being fixed and one of those biggest complaints is the addition of adverts to shows, which is causing major inconvenience to viewers. Hotstar is still a paid service, costing around £49 a year, but being reliant on so many adverts being shown to viewers, indicates that there might not just be enough subscribers to support the platform without commercials.
Merging Hotstar in with either Hulu or Disney+ could result in subscribers getting a better product, especially as the Hotstar app doesn’t seem to get as much support as Disney+ or Hulu.
It also means some Disney+/Hulu subscribers could discover some content that they maybe wouldn’t have given a try, and audiences are getting more invested in content in other languages. Netflix has had some great success with shows like “Money Heist” and “Lupin”. Using word of mouth through the power of social media can see subscribers trying something out of their comfort zone, because ultimately if they don’t like it, they can put something else on instead.
However, there are also some downsides to this move. Disney+ does have some issues with its app, which would need to be sorted. The search-ability of content within the app isn’t ideal, and it would need some more genres, sections and collections to keep the content organised. It’s a balancing act in easily finding the content and not alienating existing customers with content, not in their own language.
Disney has already started teasing things that might change, and some consolidation between the apps can only be good. It also makes the promotion of new content much easier, especially if shows become day and date releases with Disney+ Hotstar in India.
The biggest issue with moving Hotstar within Disney+ internationally is the live sports. Currently, Disney+ doesn’t offer live sports, things could change but Disney has the technology as it offers live sports in Hulu, Star+ and Disney+ Hotstar. They could also move it over onto ESPN in some countries, where it might be more better suited.
It might not happen overnight, but there are many advantages to merging Hotstar in with Hulu and Star on Disney+.
But what do you think? Let us know in the comments below: