Disney’s Secret Weapon Is a Streaming Platform in India

One in four subscribers to Disney+ is from Hotstar, India’s largest streaming platform

Sarvesh Mathi
Published in
7 min readDec 3, 2020


A Disney+ and Hotstar company logo seen displayed on a smartphone
Photo: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Like so many other companies, Disney appeared destined to exit 2020 with a trail of disappointments, disasters, and crises needing management. The pandemic forced the company to shutter its revenue-generating theme parks, delay the release of highly anticipated movies in cinemas, and lay off thousands of employees. But while these events triggered huge quarterly losses and harmed public perception of the iconic entertainment giant, the company was able to simultaneously lean into its Disney+ streaming platform — fortuitously launched in November 2019 — as a much-needed lifeline and its brightest light at the end of the tunnel.

Before its launch, analysts from research firm MoffettNathanson expected Disney+ to gain around 20 million subscribers by October 2020, but after raking in 10 million subscribers on the very first day, the streaming platform continued its meteoric rise through the new year and the pandemic. As it celebrated its first birthday this November, Disney+ boasted over 73 million subscribers. To put that in context, Disney expected to reach 60 million to 90 million subscriptions by 2024, but it has already blown past the lower estimate and is expected to reach the higher estimate by mid-2021. This makes Disney+ the second largest US-based streaming platform, only behind Netflix — an impressive feat for a platform that is just a year old. But Disney didn’t reach 73 million people with its brand new platform alone. It was generously helped by a streaming platform from India: Hotstar.

What is Hotstar?

Hotstar is India’s largest streaming platform, and it currently contributes 18 million subscribers to Disney+’s 73 million, meaning that one in four Disney+ subscribers is from Hotstar.

Hotstar entered the streaming market long before Disney. Star India, an Indian media conglomerate owned by 21st Century Fox, launched the streaming platform in 2015. Up until then, the over-the-top streaming market, in which streaming content is directly offered to viewers via the internet rather than through cable and television companies, was unexplored in India. Within six days from…