Disney Hears Nothing But Crickets from Streaming Critics

Earlier this year, analysts accused Disney of taking its eye off the Kookaburra ball after the House of Mouse lost streaming rights to the wildly popular Indian Premier League (IPL), the most-watched cricket group in India.

Patrick Trousdale
Image Credit: iStock, David Peperkamp
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Earlier this year, analysts accused Disney of taking its eye off the Kookaburra ball after the House of Mouse lost streaming rights to the wildly popular Indian Premier League (IPL), the most-watched cricket group in India.

This weekend, Disney fought its way out of a sticky wicket with a four-year deal to stream events from the International Cricket Council, the governing body which organizes international cricket tournaments, through the end of 2027. We think that’s called a straight drive in cricket but don’t hold us to it.

Stumped

By many accounts, Disney is on a roll overall as the pandemic woes fade — earlier this month the Burbank-based media colossus reported a better-than-expected 26% jump in revenue, buoyed by record results in its parks and experiences group.

Still, much of Disney’s long-term prospects hinge on its streaming business, which recently lowered subscriber growth forecasts to a range of 215 million to 245 million by fall 2024, down from a previous target of 230 million to 260 million. Embattled CEO Bob Chapek had called the initial target “very achievable” just a few months ago.

As Disney+ subscriber growth matures in the US, splashy overseas deals to attract large, digital-first audiences are more important than ever:

  • India’s IPL was watched by more than 600 million viewers last year and its recent media package valued each match at $15 million. That’s more than England’s Premier League’s $11 million, but still slightly below the NFL’s rate of $17 million per game.
  • The ICC’s Men’s T20 World Cup, held in 2021, attracted a record television reach of 167 million. Financial terms of Disney’s deal weren’t disclosed, but the ICC said the bidding process “yielded a significant uplift to the rights fee from the previous cycle.”

For Disney’s HotStar unit, which will stream the ICC’s games, paying subscribers are only worth 76 cents per month vs. $8 in the US, but India’s nascent market of 1.4 billion potential streamers remains a core growth driver with the potential for higher rates over time.

Stiff Arm: Still, no one knows better than Disney that raising prices in overseas markets is easier said than done. Germany’s VZB Consumer Advocacy Group has filed a lawsuit against Disney+ after the streaming unit raised prices “unilaterally and without any restrictions” at the expense of consumers. A modern day Robin Hood, VZB is expected to demand prices be Frozen.

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