Disney+ Hotstar, the Star India-owned streaming service, has reported an 8% QoQ decline in its paid subscriber base, dropping by 4.6 million to 52.9 million in the quarter ending April 1, 2023. This follows a 3.8 million drop in the previous quarter. The churn in subscribers is attributed to the loss of Indian Premier League (IPL) digital rights and the non-renewal of a content deal with Reliance Jio.
Viacom18, Disney Star's rival in India, has acquired the IPL digital rights till 2027 for a whopping sum of Rs 23,758 crore and is streaming the IPL live for free on its JioCinema app. Meanwhile, Reliance Jio has signed a multi-year, multi-million dollar content deal with Warner Bros. Discovery for HBO, Warner Bros., and Max Original. Previously, Disney+ Hotstar was the default home of HBO content in India.
In addition, Disney+ Hotstar's average revenue per user (ARPU) decreased by 20% to $0.59 due to lower per-subscriber advertising revenue.
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Disney+ Hotstar is available in India and certain Southeast Asian countries, and its subscriber base decline has contributed to a 2% overall drop in Disney+'s paid subscriber base, which now stands at 157.8 million from 161.8 million in the prior quarter. The company cited lower advertising revenue due to decreases in impressions and rates, an unfavourable foreign exchange impact, and lower viewership at the company's sports and non-sports channels.
The decrease in viewership of sports channels was primarily due to the airing of fewer IPL matches in the current quarter compared to the prior-year quarter, as the 2023 IPL season started approximately one week later than the 2022 season. However, the decrease was partially offset by airing more Board of Control for Cricket in India matches in the current quarter compared to the prior-year quarter.
As Disney+ Hotstar continues to lose subscribers, industry watchers will be closely monitoring how the streaming service responds to these challenges and whether it can win back its audience through new content deals and programming.