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Disney+ Proves To Be a Big Draw in Asia

Hotstar content lends Disney+ a significant boost in the region.

Steve Anderson

The push into Asian streaming markets has long been a brisk one. With a hefty percentage of the world’s population found therein, accessing these markets — and eking out a decent showing — is central to many platforms’ long-term plans. A new report shows that Disney+ is making serious headway in the Asian market, beating out Netflix by a substantial margin.

Disney+ closed out the year with 116 million subscribers, which includes India according to the reports. By way of comparison, Netflix finished out the year with 28 million subscribers in the same area. So how did Disney+ manage to beat Netflix on subscriber counts by a factor of roughly four to one?

One word: “Hotstar.”

When Disney acquired 20th Century Fox for $71.3 billion back in 2019, it also got the Hotstar streaming platform along with it. 20th Century Fox-owned Hotstar’s own parent company, Star India, which made it part of the package. Hotstar, meanwhile, is one of India’s biggest streaming platforms. The service is packed full of cricket matches and Bollywood dramas, among other things.

With Hotstar as part of the package, Disney+ could ride that product’s success all the way up. In fact, current projections suggest that by 2026, Disney+ will reach 121 million subscribers. However, there are also some potential troubles ahead for streaming services in the Asia-Pacific region.

The numbers ahead, based on word out of Digital TV Research in London, notes that by 2026 the Asia-Pacific region will account for 698 million streaming video on demand (SVOD) subscriptions. By the end of this year, that number will reach 502 million. Nearly half of that total — 354 million — will come from China, while India will provide 157 million to that count.

However, the rise of media-related crackdowns in China—as seen by the recent restrictions in online gaming operations—is likely to slow the pace of growth in the country for all streaming services. SVOD platforms will be required by Chinese law to limit the number of reality shows shown, and that will hurt streaming growth.

The amount of impact this will have overall is likely limited in scope. Even current numbers are sufficiently massive; China’s projected number of streaming customers in 2026 exceeds the total population of the US. It’s hard to envision how a slowdown in growth rates would even vaguely matter here. Perhaps the bigger problem comes from keeping them. China’s heavy-handed response to the entire concept of streaming video is something of a disaster for the concept. It’s a safe bet that consumers are likely to get bored with the content more quickly, especially when it’s limited by government mandate. Bored customers cancel subscriptions. Chinese customers are more likely to get bored with their current packages than anyone else.

Only time will tell what the ultimate impact of these developments looks like, but streaming video — whatever banner it runs under — is more likely than ever to be the future of entertainment.

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