Disney+ Hotstar, the OTT platform that holds broadcast rights for India home matches and ICC tournaments, has announced that Asia Cup 203 and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 tournaments being held later this year will be made available as free-to-view to all mobile phone users accessing Disney+ Hotstar.
“Disney+ Hotstar has remained at the forefront of the rapidly evolving OTT industry in India and the various innovations we have introduced to continue enhancing the viewer experience has allowed us to delight our audiences across the region. 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.
After record-breaking viewership by Disney Star in IPL 2023, Disney+ Hotstar has decided to lift the paywall for its mobile users specifically for these two matches. With this, more than 540 million mobile users across India will now have access to watch Asia Cup and ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup for free, as per the company.
According to the official release, the decision to make Disney+ Hotstar free is aimed at ‘democratizing the game of cricket’. Through this, the company also plans at making both cricket and Disney+ Hotstar, the streaming platform, more accessible to as many mobile users in India as possible.
“The move to lift the paywall for mobile-only viewers of both, the Asia Cup and the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, is aimed at further democratizing the game of cricket and making it accessible to as many mobile users in India as possible for the duration of the season,” the press release added.
Asia Cup 2023 is scheduled to be held in September. The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 will be played spanning nearly two months from October 5 to November 19. While Asia Cup has 13 matches scheduled, World Cup will see 10 countries fighting for the coveted trophy and there are a total of 48 matches scheduled.
Disney+ Hotstar facing challenge from JioCinema
The move by Disney+ Hotstar has come at a time when Mukesh Ambani is betting heavily on live streaming of sports matches in recent months.
Reliance’s Viacom18 won the IPL digital streaming rights from 2023 to 2027 for around $2.9 billion, rights which Disney previously held.
Ambani’s media venture outbid companies including Disney to clinch the digital rights to IPL. At present, Disney in India is facing an exodus of paid subscribers.
JioCinema, which was the official streaming partner of the IPL 2023, broke the world record for the most concurrent views to a live-streamed event with over 3.2 crore viewers watching the IPL finale between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans.
JioCinema clocked a record 1500 crore digital views in the first seven week of the tournament.
JioCinema also allowed for free streaming of the FIFA World Cup 2022 last year.
Ambani’s conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd. has aspirations to become a global media behemoth and JioCinema has already started charging for content after acquiring rights to HBO and Warner Bros Discovery Inc. shows as it takes on giants like Walt Disney Co. and Netflix Inc. in the massive Indian market.
Last month JioCinema announced premium pricing of ₹999/year, its first step to moving away from a free content model to fight rivals such as Netflix and Disney.