Disney+ India launch postponed

Manish Singh

Disney said on Friday that it is postponing the launch of its eponymous streaming service in India, one of the largest entertainment markets, after the biggest local attraction, Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, was rescheduled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The company, which is launching the streaming service in India through its local streamer Hotstar, did not immediately have a new launch date to share, but said the rollout was only being “briefly paused.”

“We recently announced that Disney+ would launch in India through the Hotstar service in conjunction with the beginning of the Indian Premier League cricket season,” said Uday Shankar, President of The Walt Disney Company APAC and Chairman of Star & Disney India, in a statement.

“Given the delay of the season, we have made the decision to briefly pause the roll-out of Disney+ and will announce a new revised premiere date for the service soon,” he added.

Disney said last month that it will launch Disney+ in India on March 29. But the company started to test the service with a small group of subscribers earlier this month. The company also cancelled a press briefing on Disney+’s India plans citing concerns over the disease.

The IPL cricket tournament, which sees more than 60 games played over a period of seven to eight weeks, is by far the biggest attraction on Hotstar all year. The tournament is so popular in India that it has helped Hotstar set several streaming records. Last year, the service said more than 25 million viewers simultaneously watched a game.

The on-demand service had amassed over 300 million monthly active users and 100 million daily active users during the tail end of the IPL season last year. Sources familiar with the matter have told TechCrunch that Hotstar's user base plummets below 60 million after the conclusion of IPL each year.

The commencement of the thirteenth season of the tournament, which was originally supposed to kickstart on March 29, has been postponed to April 15.

India could prove crucial for the five-month-old streaming service, which has so far launched in about a dozen markets and had racked up more than 28 million subscribers as of early February. More than three dozen streaming services, including Disney's global rivals -- Netflix, Amazon and Apple -- operate in India and offer parts of their services at discounted prices.