Last week saw one of the biggest mergers in the entertainment industry. Walt Disney announced it will be taking over 21st Century Fox’s entertainment division, including prime assets like Avatar and Marvel properties like X-Men and Fantastic Four.
Marvel will also be adding to its catalogue hit TV titles like The Simpsons and Modern Family. With this deal, Disney (nicknamed the mouse) will be controlling about 40-50 per cent of the global movies and TV market.
In India, the company already owns UTV and will now be adding the STAR channels as well as the streaming service Hotstar to its kitty. In other words, with this much stake, there will almost be a monopoly-like situation. The question is: should we be worried?
As we all know, the entertainment industry has been facing a huge challenge both due to piracy and competition from streaming platforms like Netflix. The company recently pulled its content from Netflix amidst stories that it will be launching its own streaming platforms, one for movies and TV and another for sports. As far as India is concerned, the company now has access to cricket, thanks to STAR’s deal with BCCI as well as league football, which is also fast catching up in India. In addition, it also will get 58 STAR channels, which as per the company, reaches more than 650 million people. As per a Reuters report, India represents the second-largest subscription TV market in Asia, with 154 million households in 2016, according to consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, which projected that number will grow to 167 million in 2021. So what we have, is a behemoth in the making. And is monopoly ever good for business?
Ultimately, what everybody is eyeing is a big slice of the streaming pie. While traditional satellite TV is facing huge competition from streaming worldwide, it is also slowly picking up steam in India. On the back of dropping data prices and increasing smartphone usage, streaming offers an escape from the (usually idiotic) soap-infested channels. It is also an option where people will find various types of content together. With a monopoly, people no longer have an option of other content providers, thus putting you at the mercy of the company.
Of course, the deal is yet to be okayed by the US regulator, but if and when it is okayed, we should all be wary of the mouse.