New Delhi: Walt Disney’s ad-free video streaming service Disney+ launches in the United States today and while its content may still be some time away from Indian audiences, there is no doubt the platform will have a lot to offer fans when it does reach the country.
For starters, Disney is unlikely to launch the platform in India and, instead, route the original content created for the new OTT (over-the-top) service and its movie library to Indian audiences through Hotstar, the video streaming service owned by Star India, Mint had reported earlier in April.
Walt Disney had acquired Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. in a $71 billion cash and stock deal in June 2018. That makes Star India, Fox Star Studios and Hotstar in India, a part of Walt Disney.
Hotstar plans to localise Disney+ movies and shows by dubbing or by adding subtitles in Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Hotstar’s own original content titled Hotstar Specials are currently available in seven Indian languages.
Disney+ will debut with content bundled from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Priced at $6.99 per month and $69.99 per year in the US, the service will debut with nine original shows like space western The Mandalorian that is set in the Star Wars universe, documentary series The World According to Jeff Goldblum, mockumentary High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, besides movies like Lady and the Tramp, Noelle, Purl, Float and Kitbull. Classics such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Miracle on 34th Street, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Recess and the X-Men animated series will also be available.
In India, Star plans to continue with its current subscription plans—Hotstar Premium at ₹299 per month and ₹999 per year and Hotstar VIP at Rs. 365 per year, even after the launch of Disney+. And while the marquee American titles will woo urban, metro audiences, challenges will persist in the creation of substantial original Indian content.
Like Apple TV+ that launched in India for ₹99 this month with TV shows including See, The Morning Show, Dickinson, For All Mankind, Helpsters, Snoopy in Space, Ghostwriter, and Oprah Winfrey's Book Club, Disney+ has not announced investment in Indian originals yet though Hotstar has its own set of originals. Both are late entrants to the already crowded OTT video market. India is currently home to more than 30 platforms, including US services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and a range of home-grown services such as Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji and Voot.
All of these have made a conscious effort to dish out original content in multiple local languages, including films and serials set in small towns featuring popular local faces. Netflix has announced a partnership with mainstream Bollywood firms like Dharmatic Entertainment, the digital content arm of Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar’s company Dharma Productions for a range of original films and shows. It also has deals with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment to create content and with Aamir Khan to acquire the actor’s movies. Arch-rival Amazon Prime Video, on the other hand, has long-term deals for feature films produced by Johar and actor Salman Khan. Together, OTT services are slated to invest about ₹2,500 crore in original content in India this year, according to an earlier Mint report.