Cricket Fuels Disney+ Subscribers

    • Disney+ Hotstar subscribers reached 26 million — 30% of Disney+ customers worldwide.
    • Disney+ gained rights to the cricket Indian Premier League upon its acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

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Last April, Disney told investors that it expected Disney+ to have 60 to 90 million subscribers by 2024.

As of December, the streaming service had already amassed 87 million subscribers. Much of that growth is thanks to cricket.

When Disney acquired 21st Century Fox for $71 billion in 2019, it absorbed Fox-owned TV network Star India. In 2015, Star India paid $2.55 billion for digital broadcast rights to the Indian Premier League from 2018 to 2022.

Star India’s video-on-demand app Hotstar also fell under Disney’s control after the Fox acquisition. In April 2020, the service was rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar.

  • It was the only service in India streaming matches of last year’s IPL season.
  • Disney+ added 8 million Hotstar subscribers at the time of the rebrand, and had another 10 million Disney+ Hotstar sign-ups in the following six months. 
  • By the end of 2020, Disney+ Hotstar subscribers reached 26 million — 30% of Disney+ customers worldwide.

“If you were going to name a [league] that Disney will be extremely keen to keep, I’d say it’s the IPL,” Vivek Couto, director of consultancy Media Partners Asia, told Fortune.

Where Disney is finding success, other companies are close behind.

  • In November, Amazon won rights to broadcast New Zealand Cricket in India through the 2025-26 season.
  • After an unsuccessful attempt to purchase IPL rights for $600 million in 2017, Facebook bought digital content rights for the International Cricket Council in 2019.

Disney now projects its streaming service will have 260 million subscribers by 2024, with Disney+ Hotstar viewers accounting for 40% of that number.

“India is a cricket-crazy country, and it’s always been part of our strategy,” Disney+ Hotstar President Sunil Rayan said.