Disney Considering Sale of Disney+ Hotstar
Disney values its Disney+ Hotstar streaming service and Star India stake around $10 billion, and Reliance Industries, Disney’s biggest rival in India, values them between $7 and $8 billion.
Disney has been exploring options, seeking to potentially sell or partner for the company’s stake in India. Prior to negotiations with Reliance Industries, The Walt Disney Company was already exploring options for their India assets. In July, Reuters reported that Disney had been in talks with Blackstone, a private equity firm, Sun TV owner Kalanithi Maran, and billionaire Gautam Adani. Now, these new reports indicate that Disney is considering selling a controlling stake to Reliance Industries.
The deal is not finalized and Disney may still decide to hold onto Disney+ Hotstar; if not, Bloomberg reported that the deal with Reliance Industries could be announced as early as next month.
Disney CEO Bob Iger Looks to Sell Some Streaming Assets
Bloomberg reported on the potential sales, referencing Iger’s now infamous “Squawk Box” interview. The interview conducted by David Faber was held at a media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho and Iger’s comments about the writers’ and actors’ strikes in the interview have since gone viral. But during the interview, Iger also agreed with Faber that ABC and its local stations “may not be core” to The Walt Disney Company. Faber speculated about a possible sale and Iger said, “We have to be open-minded and objective about the future of those businesses.” Bloomberg says that with cable TV on the decline, Iger wants to sell most of Disney’s TV assets, mainly ABC, Freeform, and FX.
Disney’s streaming services have been losing money and subscribers — Disney+ lost 4 million subscribers in the first quarter. Streaming is expected to have hit a total loss of $800 million in the third quarter.
According to Bloomberg, Iger wants to completely sell or restructure Disney’s TV and streaming business in India. This is actually where Disney+ has had the biggest losses. Disney+ Hotstar, the region’s version of Disney+, lost streaming rights to Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches, leading to the service losing 3.8 million subscribers in quarter one and 4.6 million subscribers in quarter two.
Iger does plan to hold onto Hulu. The streaming services will still have their own separate apps, at least for now. Disney will more than likely have to buy Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu in 2024.
Wells Fargo analyst Steve Cahall says selling Disney’s TV networks could get them about $8 billion, which could help offset the cost of that last third. Potential buyers would be financial entities, like private equity firms.
Iger wants to hang onto ESPN, but is looking for a partner for the sports network. Potential partners include sports companies and Apple.
Bob Iger isn’t known for selling. During his first tenure as Disney’s CEO, he acquired Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm, which have all proven successful purchases.
According to Bloomberg, TV generated 35 percent of Disney’s revenue ($24.8 billion) prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and over 50 percent ($7.5 billion) of its operating income.
It’s also worth noting that Iger got his start not just in TV, but in ABC. He began working for the network in 1974, long before it was acquired by Disney. He performed menial labor on TV sets and worked his way up through the ranks, later being named head of ABC Entertainment in 1989. Iger was named Capital Cities/ABC senior vice president in March 1993 and then executive vice president in July 1993. The next year, he was named president and COO of Capital Cities/ABC.
When The Walt Disney Company acquired ABC in 1995, they acquired Iger and he worked his way up to CEO of the entire company over the next decade, finally landing the top spot in 2005 after Michael Eisner was ousted. Iger was CEO until retiring in 2020, but returned to the position in November 2022 after Bob Chapek was also ousted.
What do you think of Iger and Disney potentially selling its India streaming assets, including Disney+ Hotstar, to Reliance Industries? Let us know in the comments.