Friday, March 24, 2023

Disney to Phase Out Hotstar U.S. Streaming Service, Fold Programming Into Hulu and ESPN Plus

Disney is taking a new step to streamline its streaming portfolio: The media company plans to phase out the Hotstar U.S. service — which provides live cricket and South Asian programming to American audiences — over the next year.

Instead, Disney will take the sports and entertainment programming in Hotstar and repackage it into ESPN Plus (which will pick up all of Hotstar’s U.S. cricket rights) and Hulu for the U.S. market. It’s hoping Hotstar customers in the States will switch over to the Disney Bundle.

Disney is aiming to fully shut down Hotstar in the U.S. in late 2022, but doesn’t have a specific date at this point. The Mouse House picked up Star India, which operates Hotstar globally, through the acquisition of 21st Century Fox.

Starting Sept. 1, Hotstar U.S. subscribers who don’t currently have any other Disney streaming service will be eligible to get the Disney Bundle (Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus) through the end of their Hotstar annual subscription, rounded up to the end of the month, at no additional charge.

Disney positioned the end of Hotstar as a standalone service for U.S. customers as a win for everyone.

“The move from Hotstar, a premium brand for South Asian content, to ESPN Plus and Hulu in the U.S. expands upon the rich and diverse catalog of live events and stories delivered across the Disney Bundle and provides a platform for South Asian content to reach broader audiences,” the company said in a statement.

The Disney Bundle in the U.S. will include all the Hotstar content that will be migrated over, plus access to everything currently available on Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu — a collection of more than 100,000 movie titles, TV episodes, original shows and sporting events. The three-service bundle is regularly priced at $13.99/month; Hotstar in the U.S. has cost $49.99/year.

Cricket matches are Hotstar’s most-viewed content. With the programming migration, beginning Sept. 1, ESPN Plus will be the new U.S. streaming home for live cricket events from the VIVO IPL, the International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s T20 World Cup, and BCCI home tours for the India national team. In 2022, all 62 matches of the IPL season will stream live on ESPN Plus, beginning in March. That will augment the cricket lineup on ESPN Plus, which includes more than 100 Cricket New Zealand matches over the next six years and 100-plus West Indies Cricket matches over the next five years.

Hulu, meanwhile, will add several thousand Hotstar specials and popular Bollywood/South Asian movies and series on a rolling basis. Series now available to all Hulu subscribers include the Indian adaptation of “The Office,” “Hostages,” “Out of Love” (based on BBC series “Dr. Foster”), “City of Dreams,” “Live Telecast” and “OK Computer.”

Eligible Hotstar U.S. subs who do not want to redeem their offer for the Disney Bundle may request prorated refunds, but must do so by Sept. 30. Ineligible subs (Hotstar U.S. customers who get one or more other Disney streaming service) will automatically receive prorated refunds for the remainder of their Hotstar annual subscription.

Disney declined to disclose the number of Hotstar subscribers in the U.S. The change affects only subscribers in the United States for now.


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