From its November 2019 launch to its February 2020 update, Walt Disney's (DIS -0.05%) Disney+ streaming entertainment offering garnered 28.6 million paid subscribers. Analysts predict that as the service expands globally, it could reach 76 million, 97 million, or even 126 million subscribers around the world by 2024.
One key to reaching that goal may be India -- and we'll get our first clue as to how that's going on Friday.
On Friday, April 3, Disney+ goes live in India, and begins competing there with rival streaming offerings from Amazon and Netflix. Disney will call the service "Disney+ Hotstar," and build it upon the local Hotstar streaming service that it acquired with its purchase of Twenty-First Century Fox last year. As Bloomberg reports, Hotstar already has 300 million monthly users, many of which use the service to watch live streaming of cricket games. Although not all of these are paying subscribers, this will give Disney a ready audience to jump-start signing up paying users to Disney+, alongside the potential to generate revenue from selling ads.
Disney's timing could have been better. Initially, the company hoped to launch its service coinciding with the Indian Premier League cricket season on March 29. That would have given Disney 600 million eyeballs to market to during the tournament. Coronavirus, however, has delayed the start of the cricket season by at least two weeks. This could mean a slower launch than Disney had hoped for -- but the audience will still eventually show up.
Disney will offer its Indian service in three tiers -- Disney+ Hotstar VIP, Disney+ Hotstar Premium, and an ad-supported basic tier -- according to whatsondisneyplus.com (an unofficial fan site devoted to the company's streaming offerings). The VIP tier will cost about $75 to subscribe for a year. Premium service will cost $20 a year.