In India, few events garner as much attention as a cricket game. And there’s no match for a World Cup final.
The Sunday game, which began just half an hour ago, has already topped 54 million concurrent viewers, shattering a record that was set just earlier this week. With no high-profile cricket game anytime soon, Hotstar is likely to maintain the record for at least six months.
As far as the concurrent viewers metric is concerned, Hotstar now maintains a clear lead over rival, Mukesh Ambani-backed Viacom18’s JioCinema, which peaked at 32 million earlier this year.
The milestone also comes at a time when Disney, which is streaming the ICC World Cup cricket matches at no cost to mobile viewers in India, is fast-losing digital subscribers in India and evaluating the future of the local business. Hotstar has lost more than 23 million subscribers in the past one year, according to Disney.
Disney chief executive Bob Iger said earlier this month that the firm “would like to stay” in India and is considering its options in the world’s most populous country where its TV business continues to deliver profit.
The firm has held preliminary talks with a handful of firms, including Ambani’s Indian conglomerate Reliance, as well as some private equity giants in recent months as it garners interest for the India business, the 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 that has forced Iger to shift focus to core businesses. It also doesn’t help Hotstar that Ambani has poached several top Star India executives to lead Viacom18 and agreed to spend $3 billion to stream the IPL cricket tournament for five years. (Disney is also spending about $3 billion on IPL, but on broadcasting the matches on TV.) Viacom18 counts Bodhi Tree, run by former Fox executives Uday Shankar and James Murdoch, among its significant backers.
Disney has had high hopes from the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup. The global streamer 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.