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Disney Must Work Hard to Maintain Early Streaming Progress in Asia-Pacific, Says Study

Disney-Plus-Logo
Courtesy of Disney

From a standing start 19 months ago, Disney’s video streaming operations in Asia-Pacific have already amassed 36.9 million subscribers. Boosted by launches in more Asian territories this year, numbers could reach 56.5 million and $800 million of revenue by the end of the year, according to new research by Media Partners Asia.

The data is part of a 30-page deep dive report into Disney’s streaming operations in the region “Disney Plus in the Asia Pacific,” published on Friday.

Behind the strong top line, the numbers show a more mixed picture. Media Partners Asia has slashed its forecasts for subscriptions in India, and it warns that the streamer needs to bolster its local content offering in some territories.

“Direct, organic subscriber growth is being driven by Australia, where Disney’s Star content has proved popular, and India, anchored to premium cricket rights,” says the study. In most other markets, Disney’s OTT services needed help from partners. “(It) acquired customers and generated revenues based on large scale, exclusive partnerships with telecom and pay-TV operators.”

In terms of subscriptions, the 36.9 million figure at the end of March compares with 32.4 million at the end of 2020. That’s an increase of 4.5 million in three months.

Launches in Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan are expected later this year, leaving Vietnam as the only significant Asian territory not operational by the end of 2021. Japan’s Disney Plus service is likely to expand in Q4 with the addition of Star entertainment content.

There is significant contrast between the Disney Plus operations in the mature and richer markets (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong) and that of the Disney Plus Hotstar package in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

Media Partners Asia forecasts that Disney Plus will finish 2021 with 7.7 million subscribers in Asia Pacific, delivering $418 million of revenues for an average revenue per user of $6.2 per month. (Compared with 3.7 million subscribers and $138 million of revenue in 2020.)

Disney Plus Hotstar is forecast to finish the year with 48.8 million subscribers delivering $382 million of revenue, compared with 28.7 million subscribers and $229 of revenue in CY 2020. ARPU in Hotstar territories is $0.70.

The consultancy has cut its forecast for Disney Plus Hotstar subscribers in India by year end from an estimated 51 million to a revised 41 million. That largely reflects the weaker than normal volume of live cricket, caused by the cancelation of the IPL tournament due to COVID-19 precautions.

“A large portion of customers who onboarded in Q2 2020 with the launch of Disney Plus in Hotstar have limited incentives to renew subscriptions,” said Media Partners Asia. “Monetization on AVOD remains challenging for Disney Plus Hotstar. IPL continues to drive revenues and yields, but inventory utilization on entertainment is low.”

The launch of Star in Australia and New Zealand in the first quarter of 2021, as well as momentum from new Marvel series “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” have helped subscriber growth and engagement. Star content has also taken off in Singapore.

In Indonesia, consumption has become heavily concentrated on Marvel films and series, but with local movie consumption tapering off and Star content failing to scale up. “Disney Plus Hotstar requires a stronger local content offering in Indonesia, where it risks becoming a franchise super fan platform otherwise,” the report said.

Early consumption in Malaysia indicates binge-viewing of Marvel films and new series, with users also sampling local movies. Pre-orders in Thailand ahead of a June 30 launch have been exceptional.

At the same time, Disney will need to continue to scale investment in local content in key markets outside India, with a focus on acquiring and producing content that resonates on its platform across the region and potentially even in the U.S., most likely to be Korean and Japanese content.

“The biggest challenge will be to create and acquire recurring local and exclusive entertainment franchises (including anime) similar to Disney’s U.S. tentpoles that sustain customer acquisition lifecycles,” the report intoned.