Disney+ Hotstar, the video streaming service, reached a new high on September 11 with a peak of approximately 28 million viewers during the India vs Pakistan cricket match in the ongoing Asia Cup tournament. This was made possible by offering free cricket streaming for mobile users. This achievement surpasses the previous record of 25.3 million concurrent viewers set during the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and New Zealand in 2019.
The BCCI secretary, Jay Shah, stated on X (formerly known as Twitter) that this is the highest digital viewership for any cricket match involving India. However, JioCinema still holds the world record for the highest number of concurrent users for a cricket match, with over 32 million simultaneous viewers during the May 2023 final match between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.
Despite this achievement, Disney+ Hotstar has faced challenges due to increased competition in India’s video streaming industry. The service has lost nearly 21 million subscribers over the past three quarters, with its paid member base dropping to 40.4 million subscribers for the quarter ending July 1, 2023, from a peak of 61.3 million subscribers in the quarter ending October 2022.
This decline coincides with Disney+ Hotstar losing access to key content offerings that were crucial to its initial growth in India: IPL streaming rights and premium HBO content, which are now held by Viacom18.
During Disney’s earnings conference call in August 2023, interim CFO Kevin Lansberry attributed the subscriber decline to a shift from a product centered around the IPL to a more balanced one with other sports and entertainment offerings.
Disney is reportedly considering selling or forming a joint venture for its Star India (now Disney Star) business, which it acquired as part of its $71.3 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox in 2019.
In an effort to attract viewers, Disney+ Hotstar announced in June that it would offer free streaming of major cricket tournaments, including the Asia Cup and the upcoming ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, to mobile users in India. This move followed JioCinema’s decision to stream the IPL tournament for free earlier this year.
Sajith Sivanandan, head of Disney+ Hotstar, believes that making the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup available to a wider audience will help grow the overall ecosystem. Last year, Disney Star retained digital and television rights for all ICC events until the end of 2027 for a reported $3 billion and sublicensed the television rights to Zee Entertainment Enterprises.