A cricket game in India has attracted a record-breaking number of viewers, with over 54 million people tuning in to watch the World Cup final. This has surpassed the previous record set earlier in the week. The streaming platform Hotstar is expected to hold onto this record for at least six months, as there are no high-profile cricket matches scheduled in the near future.
Hotstar now has a clear lead in terms of concurrent viewership over its rival, JioCinema, which reached a peak of 32 million viewers earlier this year. This achievement comes at a crucial time for Disney, who is streaming the ICC World Cup cricket matches for free on mobile devices in India. Disney has been losing digital subscribers in India and is currently evaluating the future of its local business. According to Disney, Hotstar has lost more than 23 million subscribers in the past year.
Despite these challenges, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger expressed the company’s interest in staying in India and is exploring various options. The firm has held preliminary talks with Indian conglomerate Reliance, owned by Mukesh Ambani, as well as private equity giants. Disney acquired Star India, which includes Hotstar, as part of its portfolio from Fox. However, the market conditions in India have changed, leading Iger to prioritize the company’s core businesses.
The situation is further compounded by the fact that Ambani’s Viacom18 has successfully attracted top executives from Star India and has invested $3 billion to stream the IPL cricket tournament for the next five years. Disney is also spending a similar amount on broadcasting IPL matches on TV. Viacom18 has garnered significant support from Bodhi Tree, a company run by former Fox executives Uday Shankar and James Murdoch.
Disney had high expectations for the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup, projecting that it would reach over 50 million concurrent viewers and capture 82% of India’s total annual video users during the nearly 50-day series. This information was revealed in an internal presentation reviewed by TechCrunch. Despite the challenges faced by Hotstar and Disney, the World Cup final has demonstrated the enduring popularity of cricket in India.