Disney’s Hotstar to offer free mobile cricket streaming in India to take on Reliance’s JioCinema

Disney’s Hotstar will offer free streaming of cricket tournaments to mobile users in India, following Reliance’s JioCinema comparable approach that helped it attract millions of viewers.

On Friday, Disney+ Hotstar announced it would lift the paywall on the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup live streams to let all mobile viewers watch these two tournaments for free in the cricket-loving country.

The move comes just days after JioCinema broke Hotstar’s long-standing record of concurrent views. JioCinema reached more than 32 million simultaneous viewers for the finale of the 16th edition of the Indian Cricket League (IPL) cricket tournament last week, much more than Hotstar’s previous record of 25 million concurrent views. Reliance’s platform provided free cricket streaming to its users, contributing to the new record.

“Making the Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup available to a wider audience, we believe, will help us grow the overall eco-system,” said Sajith Sivanandan, Head of Disney+ Hotstar, in a prepared statement.

Disney+ Hotstar lost its streaming rights for IPL matches to JioCinema last year for five years until 2027. Due to the shift, the latter started streaming the cricket tournament for free this year.

JioCinema’s winning of IPL’s rights has adversely impacted Hotstar — India is its largest market with about 53 million subscribers. The platform has lost 8.4 million subscribers since October last year, with a significant drop of 4.6 million subscribers alone in the quarter that ended in March, according to Disney’s recent earnings. Its average revenue per subscriber also declined to 59 cents from 74 cents in the March quarter.

Viacom18, which owns JioCinema and counts James Murdoch’s Bodhi Tree among its key investors, recently announced partnerships with international entertainment giants Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal to expand the catalog available on JioCinema’s streaming platform. JioCinema also recently introduced a premium plan to serve international content at around $12 (999 Indian rupees) per year. The platform has, however, not yet announced its plans to offer cricket streaming under its paid tier.

That said, Hotstar’s play with free mobile cricket streaming could help the platform grab some attention from JioCinema and grow its viewers as well as generate some revenue from local ads.

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