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Disney Rethinks India Business Amid Revenue Slump, Losing IPL Rights

  • Strategic review begins as IPL rights loss prompts drop in Hotstar subscribers.
  • Indian streaming service earns less than U.S. counterparts.
cricket
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Disney’s media business in India has gone from cricket to crickets, so to speak — bringing potentially big changes in the corporate outlook of the ESPN parent.

The company is reportedly looking at “strategic options” for its Star India television and streaming business — which four years ago was a key part of entertainment assets acquired from Fox in a $71.3 billion deal and seen as a crucial tool in Disney’s pivot to streaming.

But after the loss of crucial Indian Premier League cricket streaming rights last year, Star India’s fortunes have dramatically fallen. Its Hotstar streaming service — which integrated with Disney+ and dramatically boosted the overall subscriber count of that platform — dropped from 61.3 million subscribers in October 2022 to 52.9 million as of April 2023. 

More losses are expected when Disney next reports quarterly earnings next month.

In its last quarter, Hotstar generated only 59 cents in revenue per subscriber for Disney, down 20% from December 2022 and just 8% of the comparable $7.14 average for domestic Disney+ subscribers.

Talks remain at an early stage, and it’s still unclear whether Disney will pursue a sale or merely recapitalize Star India.

Disney is still in the midst of shedding 7,000 jobs — about 3% of its global workforce — in a bid to reduce $5.5 billion in costs. The most recent effects included another round of cuts at ESPN. 

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger on Wednesday completed a two-year contract extension keeping him in place through 2026.

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