Disney’s video streaming service Disney+ Hotstar lost 3.8 million paid subscribers for the first quarter ended December 31, 2022, marking the biggest-ever quarterly subscriber decline since Disney started disclosing the service’s paid member base in April 2020.

Disney+ Hotstar saw a 6 per cent decline from 61.3 million in the previous quarter to a member base of 57.5 million for the quarter.

This is only the second time that the streaming service has reported a quarterly decline in its member base, with the previous one being in Q4 2021, when the service lost 1.6 million subscribers. Disney follows an October to September fiscal year.

IPL effect?

This decline comes at a time when the streaming service will no longer be airing the IPL after losing the digital media rights of the 2023–27 editions to Reliance’s Viacom18. Disney’s chief financial officer, Christine McCarthy, had previously warned about this decline in November 2022, citing the absence of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament.

“I have been watching this very carefully,” Disney CEO Robert Iger said, talking about the streaming business.

“That is a tremendous change,” he said during the investor call on Thursday. Iger also added that Disney would no longer provide subscriber addition guidance, a move similar to Netflix.

The total paid subscriber base of Disney+ stood at 161.8 million for the December quarter, and Hotstar still accounts for over a third of the total, sector experts said. Disney+’s subscriber numbers were down from the September quarter’s 164.2 million, a drop of 2.4 million users in the December quarter, and the first-ever decline reported by Disney+ since its launch over three years ago.

Ajimon Francis, Managing Director at Brand Finance India, noted that IPL is not the sole reason for the attrition in subscribers: “This attrition is only natural as other streaming OTTs up their ante in content to further garner subscribers. Disney+ Hotstar is a complete streaming service with content besides IPL as well.”