US entertainment multinational, The Walt Disney Company, has announced plans to offer free cricket on smartphones, in a bid to boost advertising revenue and mitigate recent subscriber decline.

The streaming platform will offer live matches of the Asia Cup from 30 August and the World Cup in October and November.

Disney Hotstar, India’s streaming operations, was Disney’s largest user base last year. The company acquired Hotstar when it acquired some 21st Century Fox assets in 2019 for $71bn.

After acquiring the rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL), Disney placed the cricket service behind a paywall in 2020.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani later bought the IPL rights for $2.9bn and streamed the games for free on JioCinema.

According to a Reuters report, Disney Hotstar had lost 21 million subscribers from a base of $61m by July 2023.

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By GlobalData

Netflix has likewise struggled to gain traction in the Indian market. The price point and content offering of the service have posed a serious problem to growing its subscriber base.

Although the company has since slashed its prices to accommodate much lower disposable incomes, the initial lack of affordability cost Netflix its market position, allowing competitors to dominate.

According to GlobalData, subscription video-on-demand service revenue in India is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 15.5% from $1.3bn in 2021 to $2.7bn in 2026.