NEW DELHI: After deferring its launch date earlier this month, media and entertainment conglomerate Walt Disney is all set to bring its video streaming platform Disney+ Hotstar to India on 3 April.
Earlier this month, Hotstar, the video streaming service of the Star network, was rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar ahead of the start of Indian Premier League (IPL). The erstwhile black and yellow logo of Hotstar was replaced by a royal blue and white for Disney+ Hotstar. As a precautionary measure against covid-19 outbreak, the Board of Control for Cricket in India postponed the IPL till 15 April but there is still no clarity on whether the tournament will actually take place.
“The opportunity in the market hasn’t changed for us. IPL was the biggest reach driver to take the message (of the launch of Disney+) to every cricket lover. But there were too many developments then and we needed to reassess the situation," Uday Shankar, president, The Walt Disney Company APAC and chairman, Star and Disney India, said. “With all television production stopped and even newspapers not reaching many parts, there is a dearth of fresh and positive content and we have the world’s most exciting stories and brands with us."
Shankar added several Disney brands such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe were already hugely popular in India, with films such as Avengers: Endgame breaking records not just in the metros but across the country. Disney+ comes with content bundled from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Besides films and TV shows, it offers 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, among others.
Starting 3 April, three distinct offerings – Disney+ Hotstar VIP, Disney+ Hotstar Premium and an ad-supported basic tier will be available for customers. In what Shankar called a minor price correction, the VIP plan will be available for Rs. 399 a year (as opposed to Rs. 365 earlier) while the premium subscription will come for Rs. 1,499 (as compared to Rs. 999). All existing subscribers will be automatically upgraded to their respective new subscription plan and will be charged the new rates upon renewal.
All Disney+ movies and shows will be localized by dubbing or adding subtitles in Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil and Telugu. Other languages are also in the offing. Meanwhile, all Hotstar Specials, its Indian originals will be available across the globe too.
Often singled out for its premium sports catalogue, Shankar said Disney+ Hotstar will offer a range of content across categories, that will be unmatched in depth and range by any Indian or global entertainment service.
To be sure, Disney+ enters India at an opportune time. While the covid-19 outbreak has brought unprecedented change to lives across the world, including India, video streaming and smartphone usage have surged as people stay indoors, work from home and look for ways to keep themselves engaged. According to a report jointly brought out by television monitoring agency BARC and data and measurement firm Nielsen, time spent per user on smartphones in a week has risen by 6% in the post-covid period while video streaming services have seen a 3% rise.
The service competes with the likes of American players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video besides local entities such as ZEE5 and ALTBalaji, many of which are well entrenched in India.