Disney (DIS) to Launch Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex in India

Zacks Equity Research

Disney DIS has been focusing on strengthening its footprint in India’s growing video streaming market, which now has 39 companies offering streaming services including Disney+ Hotstar streaming services launched on Mar 29.

Disney+ Hotstar streaming services announced the launch of Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex that will see the direct release of Bollywood movies on the OTT platform that were originally slated for a theatrical release.

The pandemic has severely affected the release calendar of Bollywood with producers looking at streaming platforms as an alternative. Disney has lined up the release of seven big-ticket Bollywood films between July and October on the streamer.

The initiative called ‘First Day First Show ki home delivery’ by Disney+ Hotstar Multiplex is aimed at re-imagining the theatrical experience, which has been stalled since mid-March in the wake of the coronavirus-led shutdown.

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Local Content Push to Boost Subscriber Growth

The Disney+ Hotstar Mutliplex busts the myth that only mid-sized films are skipping theatrical releases as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and theaters remain shut.

At least three of the titles that the service has notched up are big-ticket films, with two of them having budgets of more than INR 100 crore.

This Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell) company will also premiere crime drama The Big Bull, romantic action thriller Khuda Haafiz, and comedy thriller Lootcase.

Moreover, the video-on-demand platform announced the forthcoming release of Sushant Singh Rajput’s Dil Bechara last week. While Dil Bechara will be available free to viewers as a tribute to the late actor, all the other titles will be available to Disney+ Hotstar VIP and Premium subscribers with screenings starting on Jul 24.

Existing subscribers of Disney+ Hotstar Premium and Disney+ Hotstar VIP can enjoy these blockbuster movies at no additional cost to their existing subscription.

Non-subscribers can purchase an annual membership of Disney+ Hotstar VIP at INR 399 to catch all these movies, and also enjoy exclusive Hotstar Specials, the world’s biggest Super Hero movies and unlimited LIVE sports channels.

Intensifying Tussle Between Multiplexes, Producers and Streamers

Multiplexes have been miffed with movie producers for not holding back their movie releases to honor the exclusive theatrical window of eight weeks and instead directly going to streaming platforms.

While the Indian government has eased restrictions for businesses across various sectors, it is yet to provide a specific date for reopening of cinema halls. Even when theaters are given a go-ahead to reopen, footfalls will likely be capped to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Additionally, there will likely be a huge backlog of film releases that will lead to sub-optimal showcasing of small and mid-budget films. Hence, movie producers with ready to release films are looking to offset carrying losses and protect their investments through these deals.

Although the acquisition cost of the new titles remains unknown, video-on-demand platforms are expected to have consciously paid a premium to take films directly to digital, to meet increasing consumer demand as OTT viewership has spiked over the past three months.

Disney Follows Streamers Lining Up Bollywood Film Premieres

India’s video streaming market is set to witness CAGR of 21.8% to reach INR 11,977 crore by 2023, per a PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Big Bollywood titles will help cement Disney’s library as a formidable force among the clutter of foreign and local players including Netflix NFLX , Apple AAPL , Amazon AMZN, as well as local players including Zee5, Alt Balaji, Voot and MX Player among others.

For Laxmmi Bomb, Dil Bechara, and Lootcase which are Fox Star productions, Disney owns the satellite TV and digital rights, having paid co-producers in advance. For the others, a 25-30% premium on the production budget is likely.

This comes after similar deals by rivals Amazon Prime Video that picked up seven Bollywood and regional films including Gulabo Sitabo, Shakuntala Devi last month for a direct-to-digital premiere and five other films from south India including Penguin, Law, French Biryani and Sufiyum Sujathayum.

Per a Variety report, for 2020, Media Partners Asia forecasts that Disney+ Hotstar will have 18 million paying subscribers, making it narrowly the market leader ahead of Amazon Prime Video with 17 million.

Meanwhile, Netflix picked up Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl earlier this month to premiere on its platform.

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