Blackstone, the largest alternate investment firm in the world, has initiated early-stage discussions with Walt Disney concerning acquiring a share in its Indian subsidiary.

This information was provided to Reuters by two sources familiar with the matter.

This move places Blackstone among the latest contenders showing interest in Disney’s holdings within the highly competitive Indian domain. Disney has been investigating the prospects of either selling these ventures or finding a joint venture ally.

Representatives from both Blackstone and Disney chose not to comment on the matter.

According to one of the sources, Blackstone-backed U.S. media firm Candle Media led the conversations between the two parties.

Blackstone’s Market Footprint and Investment Interests

Blackstone, a multinational private equity firm, has a robust presence across various sectors, including real estate, private equity, hedge fund solutions, and credit.

Blackstone’s interest in Disney’s Indian branch might be due to a few reasons. India’s growing digital scene is attractive for investments, especially in well-known platforms like Disney+ Hotstar.

Also, the chance for substantial growth in India’s digital entertainment sector could give Blackstone a strong position in a fast-changing market. Investing in Disney’s Indian branch could fit well with Blackstone’s strategy of leveraging high-growth, high-yield sectors to generate robust returns on investments.

Other Parties in Discussion

Apart from Blackstone, Disney has also engaged in talks with Indian tycoons Gautam Adani and Sun TV Network owner Kalanithi Maran, as reported by Bloomberg News in the preceding week.

Disney is actively exploring various options, which include selling a part of its Indian operations or a mix of assets from this unit, as per the report. Individuals familiar with the matter highlighted that these discussions are in the early stages, and there’s no assurance that a deal will come through. The report did not provide any details regarding the potential value of the deal.

Intensified Competition in India’s Streaming Landscape

The Indian streaming market is facing tough competition with over 40 services fighting for a bigger piece of the market.

A recent report shows that Disney+ Hotstar, with an impressive 40 million subscribers, is well ahead of competitors like Netflix and Prime Video in India.

Even though Netflix tried to attract Indian viewers with local Bollywood shows, it lags with about 6.5 million subscribers. The report points out a smart move by Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar – offering local content that aligns well with the cultural tastes of the Indian audience.

Cricket Proves to Be a Significant Catalyst

Streaming high-profile cricket matches, like Disney+ Hotstar did with the ICC Cricket World Cup, has drawn millions of viewers. This strategy, tapping into India’s love for cricket, not only made Disney+ Hotstar a market leader but also encouraged other platforms like JioCinema to follow suit.

In fact, Mukesh Ambani’s broadcasting platform JioCinema acquired rights to televise and livestream the national team’s matches for $721.41 million, outbidding Disney. This move, along with owning the digital streaming rights to the IPL T20 tournament, has significantly boosted the popularity of Ambani’s platform.

It also prompted Disney subscribers to flee – out of 61 million users in October 2022, about 21 million had left by July 2023.

The intense competition for cricket streaming rights illustrates the sport’s crucial role in the streaming war, prompting Disney to consider various strategic options in India – including selling or finding a joint venture ally for its digital and TV sector in this region.