After a rather muddling ride to its India debut, the long wait for Disney+ India launch has been cut short, thanks to a press statement issued by the company. The India launch date for Disney+ has now been fixed to April 3rd. And as we know already, the launch will happen via Hotstar, the streaming platform owned by Disney’s Star network in India. Hotstar is already India’s most popular streaming service, and Disney is looking to bank on that popularity for a successful India launch of Disney+.
It has already been quite a confusing debut of Disney+ in India.
Disney+ was originally scheduled to launch on March 29th. And a launch event for the same was due to happen on March 13. But then out of the blue, we got a glimpse of Disney+ India catalog along with a new, re-branded Hotstar app. This was revealed when Hotstar accidentally rolled out a new Disney+ branded app much ahead of schedule, only to have retracted saying this was a beta run.
Then came the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which started taking a grip on India, resulting in cancellation to the company’s launch event on March 13. Disney later announced an indefinite delay to the launch, which as it Turns out, is only five days from the scheduled launch.
A big reason for this shorter than anticipated delay, could be the uncertainty around Indian Premier League (IPL). Disney was earlier planning to launch Disney+ in tandem with the beginning of this year’s IPL season. But ever since India’s central and state governments started banning large gatherings due to the coronavirus outbreak in early March, this year’s IPL season went into doubt.
BCCI, cricket’s governing body in India, had earlier said that they could look at organising the multi-billion cricket league sometime in May. Within days of that announcement, Disney too announced an indefinite delay in the launch of Disney+ in India, citing a delay in IPL as the reason. But considering the current nationwide lockdown, and uncertainties around an extension of the same, it has left many to think that IPL might not happen at all this year. And that seems to have pushed Disney to go ahead with the launch of Disney+.
Additionally, Disney saw the lack of new content in the country due to shutdown,a s an opportunity.
“There is a certain sobriety in the environment and we also want to be responsible and sensitive to that. But given that there is no fresh content being launched in Indian market, we feel there will be hunger for quality content, and that’s exactly why we decided to launch it now,” said Uday Shankar, President -The Walt Disney Company APAC.
In terms of pricing, there will be changes to Hotstar’s premium plans. Hotstar VIP will change from the current ₹365 to ₹399 (Mainly Star and Disney content in Indian languages + IPL access). The bigger tier, Hotstar Premium, will see a substantial increase from ₹999 to ₹1499 (includes HBO, Showtime and other English language originals and Disney content in English, as well as Disney+ originals).