As Disney+ booms in India, company hopes to make it its biggest market


The growth of Walt Disney Co.’s streaming service in India and Indonesia has been staggering, with the countries now accounting for more than a quarter of its 73.7 million customers globally.

What’s less staggering is the price many of the subscribers pay: Even the premium plan is just $20 a year. That’s a fraction of the $70 that U.S. customers shell out and illustrates the challenge the company faces as it takes its streaming platform to more countries.

The growth of Disney+, which launched a year ago, has far exceeded the expectations of both Wall Road and the company itself. It used to be a bright spot in Disney’s latest quarterly results, released Thursday. But keeping up its pace will intent tapping markets with less spending power.

“Whether you get enough sheer volume, you’ll make it work even at a somewhat low price per subscriber,” said David Heger, an analyst at Edward Jones.

The company serves India and Indonesia with a product called Disney+ Hotstar, a rebranded platform born out of a commerce acquired from Fox final year. Those two developing countries now represent 18.4 million Disney+ subscribers.

Hotstar used to be rechristened with the Disney+ name on April 3 in India. The product launched in Indonesia in September. Since the streaming platform had 33.5 million subscribers globally at the end of March, that means the two countries accounted for nearly half of new customers over the last six months.

India, with its massive population, has the potential to grow to be the biggest market for Disney+, Heger said.

“When you look at a country with 1.3 billion people, your potential is remarkable,” he said. An extra 270 million people live in Indonesia.

Hotstar originally launched in 2015 as an ad-supported service and later added a subscription component. It features movies, TV shows and sports. The company described itself before the launch earlier this year as having over 300 million monthly active users.

In April, Disney introduced three levels of service: free, VIP and premium. The VIP version, which includes live sports, Indian movies and Disney films dubbed in native languages, costs 399 rupees per year, or approximately $5.40. The premium version, which features Disney+ originals and English-language satisfied, costs $4 a month or $20 per year.

Disney said its average revenue from Disney+ subscribers is $4.52 per month. Take out the cheaper Disney+ Hotstar plans, and the average jumps to $5.30 per month.

Unlike in the U.S., cricket matches are a big draw for Disney+ in India. The most recent season for the India Premier League helped drive subscriptions final quarter, Disney said Thursday.

Paying for those rights has presented its own pricing challenge. In final year’s third quarter, Disney’s Indian media commerce posted a $60 million loss because of rising costs for cricket.

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