Soon, not streaming on Disney+ Hotstar: HBO content

Hotstar will lose HBO content at the end of this month in the latest setback for the Disney-owned on-demand video streaming giant that recently also lost rights for a popular cricket tournament in the country.

HBO’s catalog -- shows such as Succession, The Last of Us, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Game of Thrones, Industry, Watchmen, The Wire and Veep -- will leave Disney+ Hotstar starting March 31, the Indian streamer said in a tweet. Amazon may broaden its partnership with Warner Bros. in India to stream more HBO content in the country, industry analysts say.

The loss of premium offering from HBO will hurt Hotstar that used cricket and the international catalog as the pillars around which it courted a loyal customer base in the South Asian market. Hotstar lost the bid to stream cricket in India for five years to Reliance last year.

As the newsletter The Signal wrote recently:

Some of Hotstar’s biggest ad campaigns in recent times in India have focused on driving potential subscribers to the platform by dangling HBO’s biggest hits: Game of Thrones and more recently, its prequel House Of The Dragon. These ad blitzes included a ‘Spoilers’ special ad campaign for the final season of Game Of Thrones in 2019, and another outdoor ad campaign last year for its much-awaited prequel. With ad revenue generating IPL already gone, where will the loss of these massive crowd-pleasers leave Hotstar’s attempts to sell premium subscriptions?

Originally part of Star India, Hotstar is one of the most popular streaming services in India. Under the helm of Ajit Mohan, who later moved to Meta and then Snap, Hotstar made a bet on cricket streaming at a time when very few Indians livestreamed any content. The bet worked: The firm invested hundreds of millions to secure rights to stream the IPL cricket tourney, set global records for livestreaming and, with tens of millions of subscribers, the streamer cemented its place as a crown jewel in Disney’s $71 billion purchase of Fox.

Hotstar still has about 50 million subscribers, but for the first time, it’s struggling to even retain them -- let alone add new.

In the past two years, Disney has made broader changes within the company and visibly cut down the spendings on Hotstar. The firm also did renew the rights for Formula One. "We also obviously talked to Star and one or two other more traditional platforms and we felt that they didn't value our rights in the way that we did," Formula One's director of media rights Ian Holmes told Reuters.

In the meantime, HBO has scrapped plans to launch HBO Max in India. And last year, the firm signed a deal with Amazon for streaming rights of some HBO content. Amazon is one of the likely contenders to broaden a deal with Warner Bros., industry analysts say.