Disney+ Launching in India on April 3

Eager to expand its branded subscription streaming video service worldwide, Disney+ will launch April 3 in India with sister over-the-top platform Hotstar.

Disney acquired Hotstar, which reportedly has 100 million monthly views, as part of the $71.3 million 20th Century Fox transaction.

India, with the second highest population behind China, has become hotbed for American media companies seeking to tap a consumer base that exceeds 1 billion.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week ordered citizens not to leave their homes in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“To save India, every citizen of India is being banned from 12 o’clock tonight, on exiting homes, completely,” Modi said in a series of March 24 tweets.

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Sony Pictures, WWE Partner for India Distribution

Sony Pictures Networks India Private Ltd. and WWE March 31 announced a five-year extension with an expanded broadcast/streaming agreement.

The deal will deliver WWE’s weekly flagship programming and localized content in India and the Indian subcontinent, making SPN the exclusive home to WWE in-ring content across its television and digital platforms.

After China, India, with more than 1.35 billion people, has a bigger population than the next five most populous nations — the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan and Nigeria — combined.

That’s why Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and, now, Sony Pictures and WWE, all place India high on their SVOD distribution lists.

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As part of the agreement, SPN will have the rights to air “Raw,” “SmackDown,” “NXT” as well as WWE pay-per-view specials live on its sports and digital platforms in English, Hindi and regional languages.

The expanded partnership also provides SPN the rights to WWE Network, which hosts thousands of hours of content to be made available to audiences in India through SonyLIV, SPN’s over-the-top video platform.

SPN will curate content from WWE’s extensive video library, which includes live events, classic matches, interviews with Legends, reality shows and documentaries, among other content, on its own platforms.

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“WWE has been consistently ranking in the top three properties across all sports networks in India, dominating the sports entertainment space,” Rajesh Kaul, head sports and chief revenue officer distribution at Sony Pictures Networks India, said in a statement.

James Rosenstock, EVP of WWE International, says India remains a strategically important market for WWE, adding that locally based SPN has been an “extraordinary” partner in helping to grow the pro wrestling fanbase in the region.

“The partnership gives our passionate fans new opportunities to engage with the WWE brand,” Rosenstock said

WWE is one of the most-watched sports properties in India, and India ranks #No. 1 for WWE YouTube consumption and No. 1 in WWE Facebook followers, according to the company.

While there remains a shutdown on live performance events, WWE has been actively recruiting Indian athletes and performers. Last year, WWE hosted its largest tryout in history, where more than 70 top athletes from India showcased their abilities in Mumbai. Four Indian recruits were selected to begin training at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.

Disney Suspends Disney+ SVOD Service Launch in India

Disney has called off the March 29 launch of its branded subscription streaming video service, Disney+, in India due to myriad issues involving the global coronavirus pandemic. The planned March 24 launch of the service in Europe remains on.

With India halting all commercial airline traffic within its borders and the suspension of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, Disney planned promotions around the service’s launch with its Hotstar over-the-top video platform came to a halt. Hotstar reportedly generates more than 300 million monthly views with its app and website.

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“We recently announced that Disney Plus would launch in India through the Hotstar service in conjunction with beginning of the Indian Premier League cricket season,” Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company APAC, and chairman of Star and Disney India, said in a statement. “Given the delay of the [cricket] season, we have made the decision to briefly pause the roll-out of Disney Plus and will announce a new revised premiere date for the service soon.”

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American Streaming Video Services Grapple With Global Politics

Over-the-top video is a global market with distribution as easy as creating an online network and the click of a button. While globalization is a boon for American media companies and Hollywood, there is an inconvenient flipside that comes with the territory: censorship.

The Feb. 23 broadcast of HBO’s political commentary/satire show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” was blocked Feb. 25 in India by Disney-owned Hotstar — a streaming service with more than 100 million monthly viewers. Disney acquired the service through it $71 billion purchase of select 21st Century Fox assets.

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The episode featured a lengthy criticism by Oliver of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist President Trump is currently meeting with in India.

Disney has big goals for Hotstar (which will soon be rebranded Disney+ Hotstar), believing the service can not only help Disney+ gain a footing in one of the world’s largest markets, but also successfully compete with Netflix.

IHS Markit estimates that Netflix has 1.2 million subscribers in India, less than half of Hotstar’s three million.

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At the same time, Disney, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, is discovering that carving out niche markets abroad can require agreeing to a type of government oversight unheard of in the United States.

Rather than air the Modi episode, Hotstar streamed an older episode of “Last Week.”

When Netflix found itself in the crosshairs of Saudi Arabian officals for an episode of “Patriot Act with Hasan MinHaj” critical of Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the SVOD behemoth deleted the episode. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings later defended the decision, saying the service was in the entertainment business, not the “truth to power business.” CCO Ted Sarandos then attempted to clarify the comment, claiming Netflix was indeed in the “truth to power business,” but that sometimes that also meant agreeing to the whims of local government.

Amazon last November took down the fifth season of “Madam Secretary” in India after government objections to the political drama’s reported focus on Hindu nationalism and violence against Muslims and other minorities in India.

 

Analyst: Disney+ to Add 6 Million Streaming Subs in India

Disney has generated more than 26.5 million subscribers for its branded Disney+ streaming service in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

With the platform launching in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain on March 31, new data from Wells Fargo suggests the streaming service could get its biggest subscriber boost in India.

That’s because as part of Disney’s $71 billion acquisition of select 21st Century Fox assets, Disney owns Star India, a Mumbai-based media company with dozens of sports and entertainment channels, including over-the-top video platform Hotstar with a reported 100+ million users.

Wells Fargo analyst Steven Cahall contends the scenario could help Disney+ generate six million subscribers after bowing in the second most-populous country in the world.

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The analyst believes Disney won’t make a lot of money per subscriber (from $2 monthly), but that the total addressable market portends a lucrative situation.

Cahall eyes a “big untapped TAM opportunity” for Disney+ in India, with subs increasing to 10 million by the end of fiscal 2021 and 12 million by the end of 2022.

Netflix Top-10 Lists Underscore Streamer’s Vital Global Markets

During the end-of-year winter lull, Top 10 lists permeate the media landscape, including at Netflix.

The SVOD behemoth reportedly disclosed its most-viewed TV series and titles overall in five key markets outside the United States: the United Kingdom, India, Australia, France and Germany.

The U.K., Germany and France collectively had about 21 million subscribers at the end of 2018, according to Statista. India, with its massive population and large mobile user base, remains a new market for streamers, including Netflix. The Economic Times of India estimates Netflix’s sub count at 1 million to 2 million.

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The streaming video pioneer continues to lead the growth of SVOD services in Australia with more than 11.2 million Aussies having a subscription — up 25% from a year ago, according to Roy Morgan.

As expected, many of Netflix’s top programs in the United States also fared well globally — underscoring the streamer’s push toward producing local content for a worldwide audience.

Top performers include “Stranger Things,” “Black Mirror,” “The Witcher,” “The Umbrella Academy,” movies 6 Underground, The Irishman, The Highwaymen and Murder Mystery, and documentary  “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” among others.

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Notable exclusion from the U.K., the new installment of “The Crown.”

Netflix’s Top 10 most-popular releases, movies and TV series by country as reported by Deadline.com:

Top 10 Most Popular Releases of 2019 in U.K.:

“The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann”
6 Underground
Murder Mystery
“The Witcher”
The Irishman
“After Life”
“Stranger Things 3”
“Our Planet”
“Sex Education”
“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes: Limited Series”

Top 10 Most Popular Series:
“The Witcher”
“After Life”
“Stranger Things 3”
“Sex Education”
“The Umbrella Academy”
“You”
“Unbelievable”
“Top Boy”
“Black Mirror”
“Dirty John”

Top 10 Most Popular Releases in Australia:
Murder Mystery
6 Underground
“The Witcher”
Isn’t It Romantic
“Lunatics”
The Irishman
“Stranger Things 3”
Extremely, Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Triple Frontier
“Dead to Me”

Top 10 Most Popular Series:
“The Witcher”
“Lunatics”
“Stranger Things 3”
“Dead to Me”
“The Umbrella Academy”
“Unbelievable”
“Dirty John”
“Sex Education”
“Rick and Morty: S4”
“You: S2”

Top Ten Most Popular Movies:
Murder Mystery
6 Underground
Isn’t It Romantic
The Irishman
Extremely, Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Triple Frontier
Aquaman
The Highwaymen
The Perfect Date
Falling Inn Love

Top 10 Most Popular Releases in India:
“Sacred Games: S2”
Kabir Singh
Article 15
“Bard of Blood”
Drive
Badla
House Arrest
6 Underground
“Delhi Crime”
Chopsticks

Top 10 Most Popular Series:
“Sacred Games: S2”
“Bard of Blood”
“Delhi Crime”
“Sex Education”
“Leila”
“Stranger Things 2”
“Typewriter”
“Little Things: S3”
“The Witcher”
“The Spy”

Top 10 Most Popular Movies:
Kabir Singh
Article 15
Drive
Badla
House Arrest
6 Underground
Chopsticks
Baazaar
Luka Chuppi
Romeo Akbar Walter

Top 10 Most Popular Releases in France:
“Money Heist: S3”
“The Witcher”
6 Underground
“Sex Education”
“Umbrella Academy”
“Stranger Things 3”
“You: S2”
Triple Frontier
“Elite S2”
“Family Business”

Top 10 Most Popular Series:
“Money Heist: S3”
“The Witcher”
“Sex Education”
“Umbrella Academy”
“Stranger Things 3”
“You: S2”
“Elite S2”
“Family Business”
“Raising Dion”
“13 Reasons Why: S3”

Top 10 Most Popular Movies:
6 Underground
Triple Frontier
Banlieusards (Street Flow)
The Irishman
Klaus
The Perfect Date
Isn’t It Romantic
Tall Girl
Murder Mystery
Falling Inn Love

Top 10 Most Popular Releases in Germany:
6 Underground
“Money Heist”
“The Witcher”
Murder Mystery
The Irishman
“Sex Education”
Triple Frontier
Isn’t It Romantic
Falling Inn Love
The Perfect Date

Top 10 Most Popular Movies:
6 Underground
Murder Mystery
The Irishman
Triple Frontier
Isn’t It Romantic
Falling Inn Love
The Perfect Date
Wie Jodie Uber Sich Hinauswuchs
The Knight Before Christmas
The Highwaymen

Top 10 Most Popular Series:
“Money Heist”
“The Witcher”
“Sex Education”
“Stranger Things 3”
“You”
“The Umbrella Academy”
“13 Reasons Why”
“The I-Land”
“Elite”
“Black Mirror”

Lionsgate Launches Streaming Video Service in India

Lionsgate Dec. 18 announced a partnership with Airtel, India’s largest telecommunications company, to distribute Lionsgate Play to customers in India.

The partnership will give Airtel customers access to a Lionsgate feature film content, which will be available on Airtel Xstream app and web platforms. Airtel Xstream app has a catalog of more than 10,000 movies and shows along with 400 TV channels.

The content will be available in multiple Indian languages and spread across the horror, comedy, drama, action, thriller, documentary and other genres.

Lionsgate Play’s initial offering includes the “Hunger Games” and “Twilight Saga” franchises, Oscar winner La La Land, and Wonder among its slate of box office successes.

In addition, Airtel subs will have access to recent movies, American Assassin, Robin Hood, The Spy Who Dumped Me, A Simple Favor, Saban’s Power Rangers as well as library titles such as Divergent, Now You See Me 2, Gods of Egypt, Letters To Juliet and Reservoir Dogs.

“Our mission is to make Airtel Xstream the most loved digital entertainment platform in India and enable best-in-class experience across a range of connected devices and applications,” Adarsh Nair, chief product officer, Bharti Airtel, said in a statement.

Nair said the deal underscores the telecom’s strategy to forge long-term strategic partnerships with the top content producers from around the world.

Rohit Jain, managing director Lionsgate Play South Asia, said telcos play a huge role in increasing the availability of premium content on digital platforms.

“This is another major step forward in bringing an exciting and unique content experience to our Indian audience,” Jain said.

Netflix Testing Pre-Paid Subscriptions

Netflix is reportedly testing discounted pre-paid subscriptions in India — a strategy the SVOD behemoth could expand globally.

The Economic Times of India, citing sources, said Netflix is testing discounted three-month, six-month and 12-month subscriptions as a means of luring new subs and generating increased revenue up front.

Pre-paid SVOD subscriptions aren’t new. Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV and Disney+ offer discounts for pre-paid service agreements. But Netflix hasn’t done so until now. The subscription streaming pioneer is seeking alternative ways to attract subs in an over-the-top video ecosystem that now includes Disney and Apple.

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Netflix has also tested a mobile-only plan in India due to the region’s immense mobile market. At the end of 2016, there were more than 1.1 billion mobile wireless subscribers in India. Some of the biggest mobile telecom operators include Bharti, Vodafone (Netflix), and Idea, who have over 600 million Indian subscribers combined.

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“We believe our members may value the flexibility that comes from being able to pay for a few months at once. As always, this is a test and we will only introduce it more broadly if people find it useful,” a Netflix rep said in a statement.

Netflix Bows Mobile-Only Streaming Service in Malaysia

On the heels of launching mobile-only service in India, Netflix has expanded the strategy to Malaysia with the bow of a less-expensive $4 monthly service available only on portable devices.

The basic Netflix subscription costs $8.99 in the United States.

About 88% of Malaysians own smartphones and 78% stream and download entertainment from their phone, according to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

Netflix contends subscribers in Malaysia watch twice as much content on their phones as the typical subscribers.

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“With the first-ever Mobile plan in Southeast Asia, all of Netflix’s shows and movies will be even more accessible for Malaysians to stream and download,” Ajay Arora, director of product innovation at Netflix, said in a statement.

Report: India Considering Censorship of Netflix, Amazon, Disney Streaming Video Content

With India and its second-largest population in the world, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney have aggressively sought an over-the-top video presence in the nascent market.

The influx of foreign SVOD services has reportedly prompted some government officials to ask for increased monitoring of content on the platforms — above existing regulations.

Reuters reports that public complaints about alleged obscenity or religious slights included in foreign streamed programming has some Indian lawmakers considering content censorship.

“The self-regulation isn’t the same for all, which is raising a concern … the directions are clear, we have to see how to address the problems,” an unidentified government official told the news agency.

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Indeed, Netflix and Disney-owned Hotstar agreed to sign a self-regulation of content code, while Amazon did not.

Netflix’s popular original series “Sacred Games,” about an Indian cop rooting out corruption and violence, has reportedly faced unsuccessful legal challenges regarding alleged offensive scenes and negative comments about Hindus and a former Prime Minister.

Other complaints have revolved around the lack of mandatory anti-smoking messages on Bollywood content streaming Netflix and Prime Video.

“With [censorship] regulation, all of the [global] content will need to be sanitized for India — a huge, expensive and time-consuming exercise,” global tech analyst Prasanto Roy told Reuters.

“Sacred Games,” now in its second season, has been an international hit for Netflix, including translation in 20 languages.

“We’ve been producing shows that are incredibly relevant in their home territories, and the nice windfall is that they get viewed all over the world,” Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos said March. “It’s really accelerating the brand perception of Netflix as … someone who’s producing content that you care about in every part of the world.”