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Star’s entertainment, sports channels have intl subscriber base of 216 mn: Disney

Walt Disney-owned Star India’s general entertainment and sports channels cumulatively have an estimated international subscriber base of 216 million, as of September 2021. Star’s general entertainment channels have 132 million subscribers while the sports channels have 84 million subscribers.

This data was provided by The Walt Disney Company in its annual filing for fiscal 2021. The company said that the estimated number of international subscribers is based on internal management reports and reflects the company’s estimate of each unique subscriber that has access to one or more of these branded channels.

The company said that Star branded channels air a variety of scripted, reality and documentary programming primarily in India. The channels are also broadcast in other countries in Asia Pacific. Star India owns and operates 63 SD and HD channels across entertainment and sports genres.

In addition, Walt Disney operates UTV and Bindass branded channels principally in India. UTV Action and UTV Movies offer Bollywood movies as well as Hollywood, Asian and Indian regional movies dubbed in Hindi. Bindass is a youth entertainment channel. However, UTV Action, UTV Movies, and Bindass are being phased out by Star.

Star branded sports channels primarily operate in India and also in other countries in Asia Pacific. Star has rights to various sports programming including cricket, soccer, tennis, and field hockey. The network owns and operates 16 SD and HD sports channels.

Disney also revealed that it expects the fiscal 2022 spend on produced and licensed content, including sports rights, to be as much as approximately $33 billion, or approximately $8 billion more than the fiscal 2021 spend of $25 billion.

It further stated that the increase is driven by higher spend to support our direct to consumer (DTC) expansion and generally assumes no significant disruptions to production due to COVID-19. The company’s DTC brands include Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar, ESPN+, Hulu and Star+ streaming services.

Disney also said that its increased focus on DTC distribution in international markets is expected to negatively impact the International Channels business as it shifts the primary means of monetising content from licensing of linear channels to distribution on DTC platforms.

The company stated that its international channels’ focus is on General Entertainment, Sports and/or Family programming, which are operated under four significant brands: Disney, ESPN, Fox, and Star. The channels air programming from the company’s content production groups, locally produced content and licensed programming.

Walt Disney operates approximately 245 General Entertainment channels outside the U.S., primarily under the Fox, National Geographic and Star brands, which are broadcast in approximately 45 languages and 180 countries/territories. The company operates approximately 55 Sports channels outside the U.S. under the ESPN, Fox and Star brands, which are broadcast in approximately 10 languages and 100 countries/territories.

As of October 2, 2021, the estimated number of paid Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar and STAR+ subscribers, based on internal management reports, was approximately 118 million. The majority of Disney+ revenue is derived from subscription fees. In addition, Disney+ Hotstar generates advertising revenue and Disney+ generates Premier Access fees.

Disney+ offers Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic branded programming, which are all top-level selections or “tiles” within the Disney+ interface. Programming includes approximately 33,000 episodes and 1,850 movies from the Company’s produced and acquired television and film library and approximately 75 exclusive original series and 40 exclusive original movies and specials. Disney+ launched in November 2019 in the U.S. and four other countries and launched in other Western European countries in the Spring of 2020.

In April 2020, paid subscribers of the Hotstar streaming service in India were converted to Disney+ Hotstar subscribers, and in June 2020, current subscribers of the Disney Deluxe service in Japan were converted to Disney+ subscribers. In September 2020, Disney+ was launched in additional European countries and Disney+ Hotstar was launched in Indonesia. In November 2020, Disney+ was launched in Latin America. Additional launches are planned for various Asia Pacific territories by the end of calendar 2021.

Disney+ Hotstar is a subscription-based DTC video streaming service with television shows, movies, sports, news, and original series in approximately ten languages. The service incorporates gaming and social features. Disney+ Hotstar has exclusive streaming rights to Home Box Office, Inc.’s original programming in India and also carries content from Showtime. Disney+ Hotstar is available in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.

In February 2021, Disney+ expanded its general entertainment content offerings outside the U.S. and Latin America with the launch of a STAR tile. In August 2021, STAR+ launched as a standalone DTC streaming service in Latin America. STAR and STAR+ programming includes a variety of general entertainment content from Disney’s various studios as well as content licensed from third parties. STAR+ also includes live sports.

The media conglomerate also owns a 30% ownership interest in Tata Sky, which operates a direct-to-home satellite distribution platform in India.
As per the annual filing, the equity in the income of investees increased $110 million to $761 million in the current year due to higher income from A+E Television Networks and Tata Sky Limited and lower investment impairments.

Also, the income from equity investments increased $48 million, to income of $14 million from a loss of $34 million, primarily due to higher income from Tata Sky and the absence of an investment impairment recognized in the prior year.

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