Disney Plus was due to launch March 29 as part of Disney’s India streaming service Hotstar, coinciding with the beginning of the service’s largest audience puller — the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.
However, due to coronavirus concerns and the fact that no one, including international sportspersons, is allowed to fly into India at the moment, the tournament was postponed to April 15.
Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company APAC, and chairman of Star and Disney India, said in a prepared statement: “We recently announced that Disney Plus would launch in India through the Hotstar service in conjunction with beginning of the Indian Premier League cricket season. Given the delay of the season, we have made the decision to briefly pause the roll-out of Disney Plus and will announce a new revised premiere date for the service soon.”
On March 11, Disney Plus went live in India, only to be withdrawn a day later. Hotstar said it was a beta testing limited to a small number of customers.
Disney’s Star network has a stranglehold on cricket, the most popular sport on the Indian subcontinent. In 2017, the network paid $2.55 billion for 2018-2022 rights to the IPL. In 2019, 18.6 million viewers on the Hotstar app and website tuned in simultaneously to watch the IPL finals, breaking the record for concurrent viewership.
Hotstar is India’s most popular streamer with more than 300 million monthly active users.