Hotstar was once firmly India’s largest OTT platform, but its growth is now going in reverse.
Disney+Hotstar has lost 46 lakh subscribers for the quarter ended March 2022. Hotstar had 5.75 crore subscribers at the end of December 2022, but is now left with just 5.29 crore. This has coincided with Hotstar losing its two prized properties — the IPL and HBO content — to Reliance JioCinema.
This is the second consecutive quarter in which Disney+Hotstar has lost subscribers. In October 2022, Hotstar had 6.12 crore subscribers, which fell 6% in December 2022 to 5.75 crore. In March, the fall in subscribers quickened, with the OTT losing 8% subscribers to end up with 5.29 crore paying customers. Hotstar has thus lost 83 lakh subscribers, or 13 percent of its userbase, in the last six months.
And the reasons for this exodus aren’t far to seek. Reliance has jumped into the OTT game with JioCinema, starting off by broadcasting the football world up for free. Reliance then removed Hostar from its Jio plans, causing Hotstar to lose millions of subscribers. Reliance then wrested Hotstar’s crown jewel — the IPL — by outbidding it in the BCCI tender. But Reliance didn’t stop there — it now has also taken away Hotstar’s prized HBO collection, which included popular shows like Game of Thrones, Curb your enthusiasm and Succession.
All this has meant that people likely aren’t renewing their Hotstar subscriptions like they used to. To make matters worse for Hotstar, the 13 percent fall in its subscriber base might just be the beginning — most people would’ve realized that it no longer streamed the IPL only now during the tournament, and the fall in subscriptions could continue for at least another year as people pull out of their annual plans.
Meanwhile, JioCinema is making merry. It’s been streaming the IPL for free this season, and has managed to snag crores of new users. The streaming service is also breaking records, with JioCinema claiming that it managed to get more views in this year’s opening IPL weekend than Hotstar got in the entire 2022 season. And it’s doubling down on its initial traction — Jio says it is spending Rs. 2000 crore to create original shows and movies for the JioCinema platform, which will likely draw in even more viewers. It remains to be seen whether JioCinema will end up supplanting Hotstar as India’s biggest OTT player, but its rise — and Hotstar’s rapid simultaneous fall — certainly appear to point in that direction.