Decoding the influence of IPL 2020 on Disney+Hotstar's paid subscriber base

  •  August 25,2020 By IndianTelevision Team

KOLKATA: Most of the Indian sports enthusiasts consider cricket as the country’s apex game. The forthcoming season of the Indian Premier League will overwhelm this audience as the latter has been away from the game due to the absence of major cricket tournaments for the last few months. There is no doubt that the official broadcaster Star Sports’ viewership will experience a rise during the league, but how Disney+Hotstar will benefit from it in terms of paid subscriptions is something to watch out for.

The media giant Walt Disney Company, which owns Hotstar after the acquisition of 21st Century Fox, planned a grand entry of its streaming service Disney+ in March when IPL was originally scheduled. Along with utilising the fandom for IPL, the company also decided to integrate it with Hotstar to exploit the existing users. The pandemic had compelled them to launch it in the absence of the cricket showbiz. However, despite all the odds Disney+Hotstar has been able to gain 8.63 million subscribers as of 30 June 2020. Now, most of the experts believe IPL is going to boost the number further.

SBICap Securities institutional equity research head Rajiv Sharma is of the opinion that all the content available at this moment is on predictable lines despite having differentiated storytellings, but live sports is completely off the shell. “Earlier, IPL used to have at least some competition with other cricket tournaments before or after the event. The dearth of enough good events may lead to a 2x-3x increase in viewership and brand participation for IPL,” adds Sharma.

Sharma, who is highly optimistic about IPL’s impact on Disney+Hotstar subscriber base, says that the number of new subscribers coming because of IPL will be 50 per cent higher compared to earlier years. Moreover, the retention rate after the event will be 20-30 per cent higher; thanks to the library of Disney+.

Elara Capital VP – research analyst (Media) Karan Taurani states Disney+Hotstar viewership will be impacted negatively this season. According to him, TV viewership will increase at a much higher rate compared to digital as lesser people will be commuting or stay at workplaces during the matches. In such a scenario, viewers will prefer to enjoy it on a large screen. Taurani adds that he does not see any fresh subscribers coming to the platform for IPL specifically. 

Mirum India joint CEO Sanjay Mehta differs from Taurani’s view. Mehta opines that lockdown has accustomed viewers to consume content through OTT services. According to him, many people have now formed a habit of enjoying OTT services on Smart TVs or using devices like Chromecast to enjoy it on a large screen. Coupled with the starvation of premium cricket events or other live sports, the new trends of consumption will benefit Disney+Hotstar subscription directly.

“Prima-facie, the decision to move IPL streaming to a premium account will see some decline in the overall digital audience. While I believe core IPL fans will stick to Hotstar or the ones who don’t have a subscription may get onto the platform for the duration of the event. So we may see a spike for sure in short-term,” Isobar India COO Gopa Kumar comments. Notably, Jio has introduced new packs of Rs 499 monthly and Rs 799 quarterly plans giving access to Disney+Hotstar, which makes it clear that any Jio users will not enjoy IPL at zero cost this year.

“This would be interesting to watch how audiences behave and consume the event. As the majority of people will be at home and there is less commute, there might be a slight dip. However, owing to single tv per household phenomenon at many places, you may see people logging onto Disney+Hotstar for watching the IPL,” he adds.

Kumar thinks the platform will be coming up with a marketing campaign for IPL very soon. According to him, the engagement story, the real-time response from the audience and interactive formats will be the key narrative of communication. Mirum India’s Mehta says the focus should be on highlighting the fact that Disney+Hotstar gives access to a huge amount of other premium content along with IPL.