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Disney seeks to stay on in India amid buzz on Reliance deal

CEO Iger acknowledges profitability of Disney's India business, which includes Disney+ Hotstar, during earnings call, but notes challenges in other segments

Disney seeks to stay on in India amid buzz on Reliance deal
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Walt Disney would like to stay on in India, chief executive Bob Iger said on Thursday, amid speculations about Reliance planning to buy the US entertainment giant’s India business, which includes Disney+ Hotstar.

Iger acknowledged the profitability of Disney’s business in India, but noted challenges in other segments, during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. 

“In India, our linear business actually does quite well. It’s making money. But we know that other parts of that business are challenging for us”, Iger said. “We’re considering our options there. We have an opportunity to strengthen our hand.”

“It is now maybe the most populous country in the world and we’d like to stay in that market. But we’re also looking to see whether we can strengthen our hand obviously, improve the bottom line,” Iger added. 

Bloomberg reported last month that Disney was in talks with Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd to sell its India business to the conglomerate in a cash and stock deal. 

Reliance reportedly estimated Disney’s India assets at $7-8 billion against the company’s own evaluation of $10 billion. 

Though Disney+ Star is struggling with sliding subscriber numbers, the media group is continuing to invest in India. It has, however, been weighing its options, including an outright sale or a joint venture. 

The company is grappling with challenges from new streaming players, most importantly from Reliance’s Jio Cinema, which has steadily gained subscribers, first with the streaming of the Indian Premier League and then winning rights to stream Warner Bros Discovery Inc.’s HBO shows in India. 

Jio Cinema’s rise came at the expense of Disney+ Hotstar, which earlier held the rights to both the IPL and HBO shows.

In the quarter ending September, Disney+ Hotsar lost around 28 lakh subscribers, with total subscribers now at 37.6 million.

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