EXCLUSIVE: HBO content, including tentpoles such as House of The Dragon and Succession, is on the verge of moving from Indian platform Disney+ Hotstar, where it has been streaming since 2016, according to local industry sources.
The move seems to be in line with Disney CEO Bob Iger’s announcement of a restructuring and cost-cutting at the company. While HBO content, in particular Game Of Thrones, helped Disney+ Hotstar build its subscriber base when it first launched a pay tier, English-language content is still considered a niche market in India.
At the same time, the Disney-owned platform is under pressure to reverse its subscriptions decline with more mass market content. Although it remains India’s biggest streamer, Disney+ Hotstar’s subscription base dropped by 6% to 57.5 million during the quarter ended December 31, 2022. The decline is partly attributed to the loss of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, which was bagged by Viacom18 last year in a $2.6BN deal.
Indian industry analysts are speculating that Prime Video would be a natural fit for the HBO content – either as part of its SVoD service or with the launch of HBO Max as part of the Prime Video Channels offering in India.
Channels currently available on Prime Video in India include HBO Max sister channel Discovery+, AMC+, Lionsgate Play, Mubi and Indian streaming services ErosNow and Hoichoi.
In addition, Prime Video has a deal with Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) announced in July 2022, to stream a slate of HBO Max originals in India. HBO shows already streaming on Prime Video India include The Flight Attendant, And Just Like That, Gossip Girl and sci-fi drama Raised By Wolves.
Both Warner Bros Discovery and Prime Video declined to comment when contacted by Deadline.
Until August last year, WBD was planning to launch HBO Max as a standalone service in India and had started to build a local team. However those plans were scrapped as part of a wider restructuring and cost-cutting in the wake of the WarnerMedia and Discovery merger. SonyLiv content chief Saugata Mukherjee, who had moved over to HBO to head local-language content, has since moved back to SonyLiv.
WBD has launched HBO Max across a swathe of Latin American and European territories, but no plans have been confirmed for Asia. HBO content is currently streamed on WBD’s OTT service HBO Go in several Southeast Asian territories, while licensing deals are in place in Korea and Japan.
The initial licensing deal between HBO (at the time part of Time Warner) and major Indian broadcaster Star India (at the time owned by Fox) was signed back in late 2015, when Star India’s streaming platform Hotstar was still an ad-supported service that mostly carried catch-up TV. Hotstar started producing originals in 2019, starting with an adaptation of BBC show Criminal Justice, and was rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar in August 2020 following Disney’s acquisition of Fox.
Disney+ Hotstar’s adaptation of Luther, Rudra: The Edge Of Darkness, was the most popular Hindi-language show last year in India, according to Ormax Media, drawing viewership of more than 35 million.
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