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Around 15-30% of subscribers to the over-the-top (OTT) service Disney+Hotstar come from the bundles offered by Indian telecom juggernaut Reliance Jio, according to multiple former and current executives at the streaming giant. But the share, which varies based on the time of the year, is set to go down—with one of the companies bearing a much bigger brunt.

In early October, a range of Jio’s offerings bundled with a subscription to Disney+Hotstar suddenly disappeared. Jio had silently removed removed Telecom Talk Jio Removes all Disney+ Hotstar Mobile Plans, Only Two Options Now Available Read more at least nine bundles priced between Rs 333 (US$4) and Rs 1,199 (US15)—though two of the more expensive bundles, worth Rs 1,499 (US$18) and Rs 4,199 (US$51), remain.

According to executives at rival OTT platforms and analysts, this move by Reliance Industries is heating the battle with its collaborator-turned-rival—the American media behemoth, Disney. 

Disney+Hotstar is the undisputed leader of the Indian OTT space, home to roughly half of India’s 90 million paid OTT subscribers. In the second place, Amazon Prime is estimated to have ~20 million subscribers, with other rivals like Netflix, Viacom 18’s Voot, and Zee5 in tow. Amazon Prime, however, also comes with benefits on the shopping app—further highlighting Disney’s dominance in the pure OTT-subscription business. 

But Disney+Hotstar hasn’t reached those numbers on its own. Bundling with telecom and direct-to-home service providers like Jio and Airtel has been essential, as they improved the proposition to a price-sensitive audience in India.

As a result, the end of the bundling contract with Jio is set to cause more “pain” in terms of subscriber numbers, a Hotstar executive told The Ken

The industry executives quoted in this story didn’t want to be named as they were not allowed to talk to the media. A Reliance spokesperson declined to comment officially, and Disney+Hotstar did not reply to The Ken’s emailed questionnaire.

The executives at Disney+Hotstar and Reliance Jio cited the end of a contract as the reason behind the removal of bundles. But executives at rival firms said they could already see the gap widening a few months ago when Viacom18, which Reliance partially owns, won the digital-streaming rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL)—the most popular cricket tournament in the world.

The IPL rights had been crucial to the digital growth of the previous owners—Disney+Hotstar—attracting millions millions MoneyControl IPL 2022: RCB versus LSG eliminator match clocks up peak viewership on Disney+Hotstar Read more of viewers onto the platform and driving driving The Ken IPL cricket or not, Disney+ Hotstar has a plan B Read more  advertising revenues in the hundreds of crores, besides subscriptions. 

AUTHOR

Soumyajit Saha

Soumyajit covers the operations of Big Tech companies and OTTs in India. Before The Ken, he covered equity and currency markets in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand for Reuters. You can hit him up via email about anything, except money he allegedly owes you.

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