Disney is placing its hopes on providing free mobile cricket viewing in India.
This shift in tactics by Disney, which some experts have referred to as ‘desperate,’ comes at a time when competition with JioCinema is heating up.Hotstar, owned by Walt Disney Co., will follow in its competitor JioCinema’s footsteps by providing free live streaming of cricket events in India on mobile devices. This move comes after JioCinema’s recent success in attracting millions of viewers in the cricket-obsessed nation by employing a strategy very similar to Hotstar’s.On Friday, Hotstar made the announcement that it would provide customers with free access to both the Asia Cup and the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup tournaments.
Indian Premier League
Cricket was originally available on Disney’s platform free of charge, but as of the year 2020, consumers have been asked to subscribe to a subscription plan in order to continue using the service.The Indian Premier League (IPL) is one of the most lucrative yearly sporting events in the world. Previously, Disney held the digital rights to the IPL. JioCinema, which is operated by Viacom18 and is owned by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, spent $2.9 billion to acquire those rights and then made them available for free on their streaming platform.Disney announced on Friday that the free service will be available to more than 540 million smartphone users. The company added that the objective of the initiative was to make the matches “accessible to as many mobile users in India as possible.”
When watched on television or through the website, however, the cricket matches will continue to cost money to view.The move in Disney’s strategy comes at a time when competition with JioCinema is heating up. Both Disney and JioCinema ran advertisements leading up to the Indian Premier League matches that were played in May. Disney used its advertisements to encourage viewers to watch the games on TVs, for which it had the rights. JioCinema used its advertisements to attract consumers to its free web streaming and mobile offering.
Despite the fact that JioCinema has begun charging consumers for premium content, including for the new Hollywood content contract it reached with Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal, its officials have stated that IPL streaming will continue to be provided free of charge.The struggle for viewership has been waging in the country with the most people on the planet, where cricket is the most popular sport and smartphones are responsible for the majority of digital consumption due to the country’s projected 700 million smartphone users.
According to estimates provided by research firm CLSA, the number of customers subscribing to Disney Hotstar in India decreased by approximately five million when the company lost the digital rights to the Indian Premier League.Elara Capital analyst Karan Taurani described Disney’s initiative as a “desperate” attempt to attract lost users, but he warned that free cricket – whether it be by JioCinema or Disney – sends a terrible signal for the business.”If continued over the longer term, free cricket offerings may magnify losses for streaming platforms or lead to consolidation as many platforms may not be able to survive with lower revenue per user,” he added. “If continued over the shorter term, free cricket offerings may not magnify losses for streaming platforms or lead to consolidation.”
The streaming market in India has been expanding at a rapid rate, with Netflix and Amazon Prime being two of the most important participants.According to Media Partners Asia, Disney+ Hotstar dominates the market as of the end of March despite a fall in subscribers caused by the loss of IPL rights. Disney+ Hotstar accounts for more than 40 percent of the overall user base in India.