Disney cuts back in India as Ambani chases cricket glory

South Asian telecom giant Jio, owned by Mukesh Ambani, has long tried to entice its customer base with a variety of services designed to increase subscriber retention. Due in large part to its fiercely competitive data price, Jio has amassed over 425 million members and claimed the title of top network provider in India, but its lineup of extra services has not yet attracted a sizable following.

Even though the company is aware that cricket streaming won’t be profitable for several years, Ambani is looking at the highly anticipated Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket competition as the ideal time to redesign Jio’s service adoption plan.

With a $3 billion proposal, Viacom18, a partnership between Ambani’s Reliance and Paramount, defeated Disney to win the license to stream the IPL for five years across the Indian subcontinent. Contrary to Disney’s Hotstar, which in former seasons only allowed paid users to stream IPL matches, Viacom18 is letting everyone watch IPL matches on the Jio network.

Ajit Mohan and Uday Shankar, executives of Star India, made a pivotal strategic investment in cricket streaming nearly ten years ago that propelled Hotstar to fame as a household name. Cricket alone cemented Hotstar’s place at the top of the market throughout the two-month tournament, drawing more than 100 million digital viewers each year.

Nevertheless, under the direction of previous CEO Bob Chapek, Disney decided last year to forgo digital streaming bids in favor of gaining television broadcast rights, which confused many business insiders. In a move that has justifiably infuriated many Hotstar users, the business also chose not to renew the license rights for HBO content in India. Some analyst groups predict that Hotstar, which has roughly 50 million users, would lose 15 million of them this year.

However, it’s still unclear at this moment if Jio Cinema can adequately handle the technical requirements of tens of millions of spectators watching cricket events.