In India, few events garner as much attention as a cricket game. A high-profile match between neighbors India and Pakistan delivered a much-needed break for Disney’s Hotstar, which has lost over 20 million subscribers in the past three quarters, and whose executives are anticipated to soon intensify hunt to find a buyer for its India operations.
Disney’s Hotstar reclaimed the global on-demand video streaming record on Saturday, drawing 35 million concurrent viewers to the cricket match.
The milestone surpasses the recent record of 32 million viewers set by Viacom18’s JioCinema, backed by Mukesh Ambani, Asia’s richest man. That record, similar to several others secured by Hotstar in the past five years, was for the streaming of a cricket match.
Disney is streaming the ICC World Cup cricket matches at no cost to mobile viewers in India as it attempts to fight back Viacom18, which outbid the global giant for five-year streaming rights of cricket tourney IPL and has quickly grown in popularity.
“We would like to thank all the fans who tuned-in to watch the India-Pakistan match on Disney+ Hotstar. Your love for the game is what made it possible for Disney+ Hotstar to break all the previous records across all cricket formats and hit a peak concurrency number of 3.5 crore viewers,” said Sajith Sivanandan, Head of Disney+ Hotstar India, in a statement.
“As the cricketing rivalries continue, we’ll continue to honour our commitment towards delivering an unmatched viewing experience to all our users. We look forward to many more such experiences as the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup unfolds.”
For Disney, reclaiming the vanity metric is a relief for the firm as its executives look for a buyer for Star India, which controls Hotstar. Top India executives are set to fly to the US headquarters to finalize the fate of Disney India business immediately after the ongoing cricket World Cup ends next month, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.
The firm has held preliminary talks with a handful of firms, including the Indian conglomerate Reliance, as well as some private equity giants in recent weeks as it garners interest for the India business, crown jewel in Fox’s portfolio at the time Disney acquired it.
But the fate of Star India has changed in recent years amid a dwindling market condition and an aggressive play by Ambani, who has poached several top Star India executives to lead Viacom18. Viacom18 counts Bodhi Tree, run by former Fox executives Uday Shankar and James Murdoch, among its significant backers.
Disney has high hopes from the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup. The global streamer has projected to marketers that it can reach over 50 million concurrent viewers in the tournament and reach 82% of the total annual video users in India during the nearly 50-day series, according to an internal 53-page slide reviewed by TechCrunch.