Disney+, with its original catalog, has arrived in India weeks ahead of its scheduled launch date. Disney revamped Hotstar app and populated the on-demand video streaming service with Disney+ original catalog on Wednesday morning (local time).
Unlike in most other markets such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia, in India, Disney is launching Disney+ through an existing service. As part of its deal with Fox last year, Disney now owns Star India and all of its properties including Hotstar. The company has said that Hotstar, at its peak, had about 300 million monthly active users and 100 million monthly active users.
The service, bundled with Disney+, is currently available at no additional charge to existing Hotstar subscribers — who pay Rs 999 ($14) for a year — though the premium tier carries a new yearly sticker price of Rs 3,588 ($48). (Worth pointing out that earlier the premium tier had a sticker price of about Rs 2,500, though Hotstar has been discounting it at Rs 999.)
The “Disney+ Hotstar” offers more than a dozen original titles from Disney, including “Diary of a Future President,” “Disney Family Sundays,”
“Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings,” “Encore,” “High School Musical,” “The Mandalorian,” and “The World According to Jeff Goldblum.”
A Hotstar spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company will have more to share on Friday. TechCrunch first reported about Disney’s plan to launch Disney+ launch in India.
Some users have pointed out that the in-app player is not able to stream some titles seamlessly. And that the titles are available in full-HD (1080P), instead of their native 4K (UHD) resolution. Hotstar in India has yet to add support for 4K.
The early rollout of Disney+Hotstar comes at a rough time for Disney and Hotstar that have received criticism for censoring John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” show.
The streaming service, which is the exclusive streaming syndicating partner for HBO, Showtime, and ABC in India, blocked a recent episode of “Last Week Tonight” that was critical of India’s ruling party and its leader, Narendra Modi.
In the most recent episode of the show, Oliver called out Hotstar for censoring his show and said the streaming service had also edited out a few jokes about Disney from some of his recent episodes. The company has yet to comment on the censorship issue.
That aside, India is going to be a key overseas market for Disney+ and one where it already has a lead over rivals Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime Video and dozens of other services.
In India, Hotstar has cashed in on the popularity of cricket. The company has secured rights to most cricket tournaments. In an interview in 2018, James Murdoch, then chief executive of 21st Century Fox, said, “it’s tough for anyone else in India. They want cricket, and we have got all of it secured.”
More to follow…