Rajul Kulshreshtha
Guest Article

Why the Disney+ launch has not tickled my Netflix genes

Rajul Kulshreshtha, who felt rather insulted when Disney+ did not target him, pens his thoughts on the soft launch of the brand in India.

Truth be told, I am a TV hick. Fact is, I just stopped watching TV and now watch only OTTs (read: Netflix and the occasional flirtation with Jeff). Oh yes, and I do believe that Apple TV Plus will eventually be the best that there is. Hotstar has never been on my radar save for the occasional Arsenal game and even that has lost its charm since TRAI allowed me to subscribe to only sports Channels - in English and HD.

And I do not watch IPL - that is the truth.

I felt rather insulted when Disney/Hotstar/Disney+/Disney Hotstar (actually, take your pick) did not even target me, leave alone re-target. All those cookies I accepted… they must have helped someone in the Disney performance team to find me. Alas, it was not to be found. I missed the date of the launch. But apparently the WWW was also not awash with Disney’s entry into India. Yes, there were the occasional comments on Twitter by the regulars but nothing to write home about. Nothing compared to the frenzy of Apple TV Plus. I realised that Disney+ had hit my screen when my Apple TV decided to do an upgrade on the Hotstar app. And then it hit me. Damn, we now have Disney+.

My excitement knew no bounds. Given the covid-crisis, I was anyway home bound. So here was one more reason to say “Life is so short”. Alas, it was not to be. I had watched almost everything that Disney+ had to offer as on the April 4, 2020. Nothing new. No new show, nothing. And here I was all geared up with snacks, coffee and what have you. My sadness knew no bounds.

Yet, I persisted. And decided to watch Lion King/Toy story 4. Something wrong with the sound - yeah there it was - no Dolby Atmos was the first thing that hit me. Dude, all my investments in thay fancy home theatre devastated me... Disney and no Atmos. I mean, were they not able to get the license from Dolby or what? I was stunned. Clearly someone, somewhere missed out something.

All this left me thinking. We are going through perhaps one of the most challenging periods in human history. There is gloom all around and what have you. People are home bound, quarantined, locked in, call it what you may. As Sir Winston Churchill put it “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” There was a massive opportunity even in COVID for a brand like Disney. A simple message like ‘ Disney+ is now in India. Another reason for you to stay at home’ would have done it. But clearly, it was a tough one. The launch of Disney+ in India during the COVID-crisis - OMFG. What do we do? And I know the answer to that one. Let’s have a soft launch!

Well, we have a soft launch. I am not sure how it went from a business perspective, given that the metrics for this would have been rather complicated - only premium subscribers of Hotstar apparently have access to this. So there are two ways of evaluating this. One, did the launch of Disney+ get Hotstar new premium viewers? And how many of the current Hotstar Premium users sampled Disney+? If I take a cursory look at Google trends from April 1 - April 5, I am afraid it does not make for very good optics. But I am sure  the soft launch KPIs would have been met. Forget what it did to the brand. Not important.

In the meanwhile I am back to watching what Messers Cook, Hastings and Bezo are putting out. And in that order…

(Rajul Kulshreshtha is the CEO Madison Media Plus.)