Disney Stock – Disney pulling plug on Asian sports channels in DTC pivot
Disney to shut down Fox and Star branded sports networks in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.
- Disney’s regional rights portfolio includes F1 and all four tennis majors
- Media giant has template for combined DTC sports and entertainment offering in Latin American with Star+
Disney is closing its sports channels in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong in October 2021 in a move that will see the media giant pivot towards a direct-to-consumer (DTC) approach.
Among the 18 channels closing down are Fox Sports, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3, Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 2, plus a host of entertainment networks. Disney has a number of high-profile sports rights contracts in the region, including Formula One and tennis majors the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
The pay-TV platforms which carry Disney’s channels, including Singapore’s SingTel Mio and Starhub, will now be left with a huge gap to fill in their channel lineups by the decision to close down.
In a statement to employees, Disney said: ‘As part of The Walt Disney Company’s global effort to pivot towards a DTC first model and further grow our streaming services, the company is consolidating its Media Networks business primarily in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. These efforts will help us align our resources more efficiently and effectively to current and future business needs.’
The move comes with the Disney+ streaming service gaining traction in the Asia-Pacific region. Earlier this year Media Partners Asia projected the platform would bring in US$1.2 billion revenue in 2021 and is projected to reach 66 million paying subscribers.
While the immediate future of Disney’s platform strategy in the region is unclear, the template has been set in Latin America where its Star+ international brand offers ESPN’s regional portfolio of live sports content. The Latin American platform is set to go live in June 2021, priced at around US$7.50 a month (or the local equivalent) and can be bundled with the Disney+ entertainment service for US$9 a month.
Elsewhere, the Star brand being used by Disney as its adult-focused DTC offering outside of the US. Star is already a well-established pay-TV name in the Indian subcontinent, alongside its Hotstar streaming platform – the largest streaming platform in the country, which is forecast to finish 2021 with 50 million subscribers. Star content is already being integrated into Disney+ in most markets outside of Latin America.
Disney has yet to disclose how many people will be leaving the company as a result of the closure. However, the Geekculture digital outlet reports that Singapore-based marketing leads Daniel Tanand Shoba Martin will be let go.
Fox Network Group content executive Michael Dick is now set to lead on DTC acquisition for the region as well as channels for Southeast Asia, including Indonesia.