Disney+ was supposed to launch on March 29 to coincide with the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket season. But the season has been delayed at least until April 15 due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and now Disney is revising its plans.
“Given the delay of the season, we have made the decision to briefly pause the roll-out of Disney+ and will announce a new revised premiere date for the service soon,” Uday Shankar, president of Disney’s Asia Pacific unit, said in a statement.
Global media companies have been racing to reach more Indian consumers, as millions come online for the first time.
Disney is planning to distribute its new service over Hotstar, a streaming platform that it bought from 21st Century Fox (FOX)
in 2018. Disney revealed in April 2019 that the number of monthly active users on Hotstar had shot up to 300 million from 75 million at the end of 2017.
Rival services such as Netflix (NFLX)
and Amazon (AMZN)
Prime Video are also making a big push in India, commissioning dozens of original movies and TV shows. Last December, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company would spend $400 million on Indian content for 2019 and 2020.
Disney’s worldwide operations have already been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The company has delayed the release of several movies and shuttered its theme parks.
But streaming services could be more resilient to the downturn as hundreds of millions forced to stay home to avoid spreading the virus look for entertainment.
In the United States, Disney moved the release date of Frozen II on its streaming service three months ahead of schedule. In Europe, Netflix and Google’s (GOOGL)
YouTube are lowering the quality of their streams
in order to reduce the strain on the internet caused by a surge in demand.
— Rishi Iyengar contributed to this article.