Netflix’s nearly global footprint dwarfs Disney+, but the five-month-old streaming service is filling the gaps rather quickly. While the service went live in North America, the Netherlands, and parts of Australasia in November, it’s set to reach more countries in Europe and Asia later this month. Ahead of its March 29 release in India, the entire Disney+ catalog has already gone live on Hotstar—the largest streaming service in the South Asian market by user count.
Disney inherited Hotstar as part of its acquisition of Fox and decided to roll out its streaming service in India via Hotstar instead of bringing a dedicated app. The Indian streaming app has been undergoing a cosmetic treatment over the past week to incorporate design elements from the Disney+ app and was more recently rebranded to Disney+ Hotstar, in line with what Disney chief Bob Iger said in an earnings call.
As part of this update, the new Hotstar app now has a Disney+ tab in the bottom navigation bar, which gives you access to all Disney+ original programming and content from Disney’s other properties. Even after this redesign, the app remains barebones due to the lack of features like multi-user profiles and parental controls, while the video quality is capped at 1080p, even for Disney+ content.
Those already subscribed to Hotstar’s Premium tier can access the content right away, instead of having to wait for the official release. Aside from Premium, which costs ₹999 ($14) a year, Hotstar has a cheaper plan called VIP, which costs ₹365 ($5) a year. VIP subscribers get access to the service’s entire non-English catalog, while those interested in watching anything in English must get the pricier plan. Since Disney+ originals like The Mandalorian and Togo haven’t been dubbed in various Indian languages yet, you can stream them only with an active Premium subscription.
Left: Language-based subscription tiers for a movie. Right: Hotstar plans compared.
Iger also said that the new Disney+ Hotstar service would retain these three tiers (including a free one), but he didn’t specify if pricing would go up after the new lineup’s infusion. While the redesigned Hotstar app is still offering plan upgrades at the existing prices, some earlier media reports indicate a possible rise ahead of the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket season, for which the streaming service holds exclusive streaming rights.
Disney+ was supposed to arrive in India on March 29, coinciding with the 2020 IPL season, likely to capitalize on the mass appeal of the cricket extravaganza. However, after the tournament was pushed back to mid-April due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Disney Plus’ release has also been deferred, as told by Disney’s local head, Uday Shankar. The announcement was made (via TechCrunch) without giving a specific date. Separately, Hotstar pulled the Disney+ branding from all its apps and website within hours of them going live, while the unlisted Disney+ content continues to be accessible via direct links.
Coming to India on April 3
After missing its original release date, Disney+ is finally coming to India on April 3, according to Disney's India chief (via TechCrunch). Hotstar users in the country will be able to access the entire Disney+ catalog starting Friday, as the app is set to get rebranded to Disney+ Hotstar with a new UI, as we saw previously. While the new combined service will retain its three subscription tiers, their prices will be slightly increased to account for the newly added content.
The VIP plan that gives users access to non-English shows and movies will cost ₹399 ($5.3) for a year, while the annual Premium tier has been priced at ₹1,499 ($20). Streaming services are lately seeing a spike in user count in most countries, including India, which is an opportunity Disney+ wouldn’t want to miss out on even for a megaevent like the IPL.
Disney+ is now live
After an initially postponed launch, Disney Plus finally went live in India today. To get started, you can sign up for the ₹399 VIP plan or the ₹1,499 Premium tier.
- Gurkanwal Singh