Walt Disney has held preliminary talks with potential buyers for its India streaming and television business.
Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd is among the suitors.
What is up for grabs?
Disney has discussed a range of options, from a deal for the entire Disney Star business to a piecemeal transaction that may include some combination of its assets including sports rights and streaming service Disney+ Hotstar.
Since the Indian OTT unit lost its streaming rights to the IPL tournament to Viacom18 Media Pvt., a tie-up between Paramount Global and Reliance, its subscribers count has been on a freefall.
Losing both IPL and subscribers
Since missing out on IPL, Disney has lost over 20 million subscribers from Disney+ Hotstar, which also did not renew the deal for HBO content.
Since this development it had begun exploring strategic options for the business including an outright sale or a joint venture.
Disney had approached Reliance about potentially buying a stake in the business.
Nothing confirmed yet
Discussions are ongoing and may not lead to any deal. Disney could also decide to hold onto the assets for longer.
A spokesperson for Reliance said the company “evaluates various opportunities on an ongoing basis” and will make the required disclosures when necessary.
Cricket streaming rights
Despite a slump in subscriber numbers after losing the IPL streaming rights, it hasn’t given up the entire cricket business, securing the television rights through 2027.
Could join JioCinema?
Backed by Reliance, JioCinema scored a record 32 million concurrent viewers in May for the IPL final, which was free to watch on the platform.
It has started charging for some content on the platform after signing a multi-year pact to stream Warner Bros Discovery Inc.’s exclusive content in India.
What is the outlook?
The declining digital business coupled with $4 billion worth of sports rights liabilities could be a major hurdle in Disney’s quest to offload Hotstar.
Hotstar will be a costly asset with the current sports and entertainment deals in place.
So, apart from Reliance-backed Viacom18, not many can afford to pick it up.