The Indian Premier League (IPL) proved a winner for streaming giant Disney+, which added nearly 8 million new subscribers worldwide in the March quarter — half of them courtesy Disney+ Hotstar, which operates in India and other Asian countries.
Rival Netflix, meanwhile, saw an erosion in its global subscriber base for the January-March 2022 period.
In an earnings call on Thursday, the management of the Walt Disney Company, which owns streaming platform Disney+, said that its Disney+ Hotstar service had contributed to over half of the new global subscribers in the March quarter. This was led by the IPL, the television and digital broadcast rights of which are currently with Disney-Star. The company follows an October-September accounting year.
“We ended the quarter with nearly 138 million global paid Disney+ subscribers, reflecting close to 8 million net additions for the period. A little over half of those net additions were from Disney+ Hotstar, which benefited from the start of the new IPL season,” Christine McCarthy, senior executive vice-president and chief financial officer, the Walt Disney Company, said during the investor call.
Disney+ Hotstar now has over 50 million paid subscribers, accounting for 36.4 per cent of the total paid subscriber base of Disney+, she said.
Last month, Netflix had indicated that it had lost 200,000 subscribers globally in the March quarter, projecting that it saw an additional loss of 2 million subscribers in the June quarter. This was led by issues such as account sharing by customers and rising competition in key markets.
Netflix had, however, said that user engagement was witnessing an uptick in India and that it was planning an ad-supported platform or an advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) service to propel growth across markets.
While Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have depended on a combination of movies, original shows and co-productions in India to drive viewership, Disney+ Hotstar has relied on its sports content, notably cricket.
Disney's McCarthy reiterated that this strategy would continue into the future, though the company was lining up some 100 shows in India in the months ahead.
“One-third of the $32-billion content spend for fiscal 2022 will be going to sports. Of the balance of the $32 billion, a meaningful amount of it will be dedicated to investments in general entertainment content that we can leverage across all our distribution platforms,” she said, adding, “We have about 500 shows in the pipeline for local content outside of the US. Of this, 140 is in Southeast Asia. In EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa), it is 150, and in India, it is 100 shows.”
Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, also said that the company’s ad-supported subscription service would roll out in the US by the end of 2022. It would launch internationally by 2023, expanding the reach of Disney+ to more customers and improving access.