Disney has declined to stump up for a bid to renew the online rights to Indian Premier League cricket that may account for many of its more than 40 million Disney+ subscribers in India. Some estimates suggest that Disney+ could lose up to 20 million subscribers as a result. Meanwhile, Disney will pay $3 billion for the broadcast rights on traditional television, as the pay-television market in India continues to grow.
At the end of the first quarter of 2022, Disney+ had 137.7 million subscribers worldwide, of which 50.1 million came from Disney+ Hotstar, most of them in India. Half of its 7.9 million additional subscriptions in the last quarter came from India, at the start of the IPL cricket season.
Disney inherited the broadcast and online rights for IPL cricket in 2019, when it bought Fox, the parent company of Star India.
However, the average revenue from a Disney+ Hotstar subscriber is just 76 cents a month, compared to $6.33 for Disney+ elsewhere.
When the IPL rights came up for renewal, Disney bid $3 billion for the broadcast rights for the next five years.
The $2.6 billion winning bid for the online rights came from Viacom18, a joint venture between Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, Paramount Global and Bodhi Tree Systems, the investment company backed by James Murdoch and Uday Shankar, the former president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific.
In total, the IPL rights raised $6.2 billion for the five-year deals, more than double the figure they achieved five years before. It values each cricket match at $15 million, which is more than the $11 million a match value of English Premier League football, but less than the $17 million a match for a National Football League game in the United States.
Disney rationalised the result, saying it made disciplined bids with a focus on long-term value. “We chose not to proceed with the digital rights given the price required to secure that package.”
Bob Chapek, the chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, has set his sights on achieving 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024. The loss of IPL cricket in India could cost the company around 20 million subscribers, which it will need to make up elsewhere.
The Disney share price has fallen to under $100, down from around $175 over 12 months.