The Over-The-Top (OTT) streaming market has grown leaps and bounds over the past few years. The decreasing prices of mobile data plans along with the pandemic has helped push OTT platforms to mainstream popularity. It has also turned these platforms into the DeFacto-destinations for Indians to watch content on the go.
According to ResearchAndMarkets.com, the video OTT market was valued at INR 249.09 Bn in FY 2022. The segment is expected to grow to INR 581.21 Bn by FY 2027 at a CAGR of ~16.58% during this period. CAGR or Compound Annual Growth Rate is used to determine the average rate of revenue growth during a certain period.
Post pandemic, several viewers have migrated to watching content on streaming services compared to the ad-filled experiences of cable TV. The convenience of streaming platforms has now allowed families to watch their preferred content on their devices compared to the olden days where every family member laid their claim on the TV remote.
The rise of streaming has resulted in the arrival of new platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, Sony LIV, Voot, and more over the past few years. Despite all the competition, Disney+ Hotstar is still the platform with the most subscribers with around 58.4 million subscribers.
However, with the recent announcement of HBO content leaving the platform, is Disney+ Hotstar on the verge of entering a downward spiral in the future?
The early rise and success of Hotstar as a sports streamer
Hotstar first debuted in 2015, as a means for Star to offer content from its various regional TV channels. Along with that, it also served as the place for sports fans to watch matches as well. Looking back, the service launched around the time of the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia.
Cricket became a major attraction for viewers on Hotstar. The platform further cemented its position and preference for Cricket fans as Star also owned the streaming rights for the wildly popular Indian Premier League (IPL). The app was a success during the 2015 edition of the IPL, as it reportedly garnered over 200 million views during the tournament. The views continued to grow during the corresponding editions of the IPL.
On top of cricket, fans of other sports also made their way to Hotstar. While football fans were able to watch English Premier League on the app, Formula 1 fanatics could also use the app to catch their favorite racers battle it out on Grand Prix weekends.
Introduction of international content, especially HBO during Game of Throne’s rise
Other than sports streams, Hotstar also offered access to international content that Star owned the rights to broadcast in India.
In 2016, a year after the app’s launch, the app had also negotiated a deal with popular US network HBO to stream its content through Hotstar in India. The deal coincided during the peak popularity of HBO’s hit TV series, Game of Thrones.
The popularity of Game of Thrones saw viewers pinned to their screens on Monday mornings, as it coincided with the episode’s release in the US on Sunday nights. Some other popular HBO shows available on Disney+ Hotstar included euphoria, Chernobyl, True Detective, Watchmen, Barry, Westworld, Silicon Valley, The White Lotus, Succession, and more. We also got access to some of the classics like Band of Brothers, The Pacific, The Sapranos, The Newsroom, and The Wire.
With respect to its competitors Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar had the edge due to its catalogue of prestigious TV content from HBO. Furthermore, following The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of Star and its parent company 21st Century Fox in 2019, Hotstar broke new ground.
In 2020, the platform was rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar, with the platform becoming the home of Disney+ content in India. This move came just months after the global launch of Disney+ streaming service. The rebrand coincided with the start of Disney+ original programming with the Star Wars TV show, The Mandalorian. Disney+ Hotstar later introduced MCU fans with Marvel TV shows such as WandaVision, Loki, and more.
Other than Star Wars and Marvel, Disney+ Hotstar also included content from various Disney IPs such as the company’s massive library of animated TV shows, National Geographic, and more.
Despite owning rights to various IPs and content, Disney+ Hotstar now faces a conundrum following the announcement to remove HBO content. However, is that the streaming platform’s only major problem?
Losing IPL and other sports rights gave Disney+ Hotstar its first major blow
Disney+ Hotstar had cemented itself as the go-to destination for major sports content to watch in India. However, the platform was dealt with its first blow last year, when the Mukesh Ambani-led Viacom 18 won the IPL digital rights for a whopping sum of INR. 23,758 crores. While Disney Star retained the TV rights, losing digital rights meant that Disney+ Hotstar can’t stream IPL matches from 2023 to 2027. This caused a major downturn in subscribers, as Disney+ Hotstar lost 3.8 million subscribers between October 2022 and December 2022.
Along with that, the F1 season for 2023 began with no streams on Disney+ Hotstar, as the platform no longer owns the rights. Fans of the sport can now watch the races from F1 TV, the official streaming service for motorsport. Both losses were a major problem for Disney+ Hotstar, as it was once known as the premier destination for sports content.
Lack of original content that rivals Amazon Prime Video and Netflix in India
On the international front, Disney+ Hotstar can boast about having TV shows and films that can rival the catalog of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, the same can’t be said for the regional content that Hotstar provides.
When it comes to marquee Indian shows, Netflix hit it out of the park with the likes of Sacred Games, Delhi Crime, Kota Factory, Mismatched, Little Things, and more. Similarly, the same can be said Prime Video, which has shows like Mirzapur, Paatal Lok, Breathe, Made in Heaven, The Family Man, Panchayat, Laakhon Mein Ek, and others.
However, Disney+ Hotstar has yet to struck gold with its original programming, which is under the banner of Hotstar Specials. While the platform has had some success with the newly released Taaza Khabar and The Night Manager along with Special OPS and Aarya, these shows haven’t reached the heights of popularity that its counterparts at Netflix and Amazon Prime Video has had.
Dwindling international content headed by HBO’s departure
Despite its various struggles with sports streams and lack of original programming, Disney+ Hotstar remained a solid hub for international content. But earlier this week Disney+ Hotstar support confirmed HBO content would leave the platform at the end of March 2023.
The platform that gained popularity through its early morning episode releases of shows like Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon is set to lose prestige TV content. And to make matters worse, the timing of HBO content’s departure couldn’t have come at a worse time for Disney+ Hotstar. This is because the final seasons of hit TV series like Succession and Barry are set to begin in the coming weeks.
With HBO no longer with a streaming home in India, one of Disney+ Hotstar competitor (Amazon Prime Video) now stands the chance to gain the massive library of HBO.
Disney+ Hotstar and the history of technical issues
Compared to platforms like Sony LIV and JioCinema, Disney+ Hotstar lags behind in live streaming. It is also worth noting that its most expensive tiers do not offer 4K or 60 FPS sports streams. Additionally, the Ambani-owned JioCinema is on the threshold of changing sports streaming for the better with multiple camera options and high-quality resolution for free for Reliance Jio customers.
In addition, the UI of Disney+ Hotstar largely remained unchanged since the launch of the streaming platform. The most recent overhaul (Hotstar X) came two years after Disney+ Hotstar rebrand. The app has also faced some issues, with the most notable taking place last month when the entire platform went down for a while. Twitter users claimed that this outage happened because Disney+ Hotstar forgot to renew their domain. In the end, it’s fair to say that the streaming experience isn’t particularly the best in India with Disney+ Hotstar.
With the recent removal of HBO content and absence of IPL content, it’s been reported that Disney+ Hotstar may stand to lose around 15 million subscribers. Without some major changes to the platform experience and content lineup, this number could further grow in the coming months.