In India, few events attract as much attention as a cricket match. And there is no match for a World Cup final.
Sunday’s match, which started just half an hour ago, has already surpassed 54 million concurrent viewers, breaking a record set earlier this week. With no high-profile cricket match happening anytime soon, Hotstar will likely hold the record for at least six months.
When it comes to measuring concurrent viewers, Hotstar now maintains a clear lead over its rival, Viacom18’s Mukesh Ambani-backed JioCinema, which peaked at 32 million earlier this year.
The milestone also comes at a time when Disney, which broadcasts ICC World Cup cricket matches for free to mobile viewers in India, is rapidly losing its digital subscribers in India and is evaluating the future of the local company. Hotstar has lost more than 23 million subscribers in the past year, according to Disney.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said earlier this month that the company would “like to stay” in India and was exploring its options in the world’s most populous country, where its TV business continues to generate profits.
The company has held preliminary discussions with a handful of companies, including Ambani’s Indian conglomerate Reliance, as well as some private equity giants in recent months, as it drums up interest in the Indian business , the crown jewel of Fox’s portfolio at the time of its acquisition by Disney.
But Star India’s fortunes have changed in recent years, amid a deteriorating market that forced Iger to focus on its core businesses. It also doesn’t help Hotstar that Ambani poached several top executives from Star India to run Viacom18 and agreed to spend $3 billion to broadcast the IPL cricket tournament for five years. (Disney also spends about $3 billion on the IPL, but on televising the matches.) Viacom18 counts Bodhi Tree, led by former Fox executives Uday Shankar and James Murdoch, among its major backers.
Disney had high hopes for the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup. The global streamer projected to marketers that it could reach more than 50 million concurrent viewers during the tournament and reach 82% of India’s annual total video users during the nearly 50-day series, according to a 53-page internal slide reviewed by TechCrunch.