From Owning Hotstar to Star India, What Disney’s Fox Deal Spells

For Disney, owning Star India will give it an edge over competing content providers in India.

3 min read

Walt Disney Co’s deal with Twenty-First Century Fox Inc will give the world’s best-known entertainment company new advantages in India, such as cricket rights and local-language TV shows for the fast-growing media market.

Through the $52.4 billion deal, Disney would be able to distribute its programming on Star India, operator of 69 TV channels in eight languages, as well as the popular Hotstar streaming service. Disney also would gain global rights to professional cricket.

It is an amazing opportunity to get into the best developing market in the world. But, we must remember it is highly competitive.
Michael Nathanson, Analyst, MoffettNathanson

TV Audience Migrates to Digital Viewing

Netflix Inc has been offering its streaming service in India for nearly two years, and Inc’s Prime Video has been courting customers there for one year.

Global expansion is important to Disney because its largest US network, ESPN, has been losing subscribers as the audience migrates from traditional television to digital viewing.

India represents the second-largest subscription TV market in Asia, with 154 million households in 2016, according to consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, which projected that number will grow to 167 million in 2021.

Mobile video traffic, meanwhile, is booming. KPMG expects it will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 68 percent between 2016 and 2021.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Fox declined to comment.

Star India is also flush with cash. Fox projects will earn $500 million before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation in fiscal 2018, rising to $1 billion in 2020.

Star India alone is by far the most successful TV network in the fastest-growing country.  
Tim Nollen, Analyst, Macquarie Research

Star’s TV business could bring in new advertising revenue at a time when US ad spending is growing at a slower pace. In the first fiscal quarter, Fox saw international ad revenue jump 10 percent, fuelled by double-digit increases in growth through Star India, while in the United States the company saw 3 percent growth in ad revenue.


Edge Over Netflix

For Disney, owning Star India will give it an edge over competing content providers in the world's second-most populous country.

“New entrants like Netflix will need a lot of time to recreate a service” like Hotstar because of its sports rights and head start in producing programming in multiple Indian languages, Barclays analysts said in a research note.

Disney networks including the Disney Channel are distributed now in India but overall the country is "an egregious area of under-exposure" for the company, B Riley FBR analyst Barton Crockett said in a research note.

Adding Star, which reaches 720 million viewers per month, would vastly expand Disney's TV presence there. Disney could put its content on the Star channels and Hotstar, said Prem Parameswaran, chief executive of North America for Eros International Plc, a distributor of Indian movies, shows and music that also has an online streaming service.


The Power of Sports

Global sports rights, particularly cricket which Fox recently won, should add to Disney's bottom line, Parameswaran added.

"In India there is religion, there is cricket and there is Bollywood," he said.

In September, Star paid $2.55 billion for broadcast and digital rights of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, beating Facebook which bid as well.

Film Opportunity

The deal will also allow Disney to boost its film business in India, where the vast majority of movies are local Bollywood releases, Parameswaran said.

Disney had produced Bollywood films through its Indian film studio, UTV, but recently has focussed instead on promoting its global English-language blockbusters in the country.

With the acquisition of Star, Disney may decide to return to local-language film production through UTV for distribution on TV or streaming, Parameswaran said.

"They could now have the ability to create films and offer them exclusively to their viewers, rather than through the box office," he said. "There are a lot of synergies here."

((Published in an arrangement with Reuters. The copy has been edited to reflect Walt Disney’s confirmed takeover of 21st Century Fox.)

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