Hotstar’s days as a standalone streaming service are numbered in the United States. Disney — who owns Hotstar — announced Tuesday, September 1 that Hotstar’s content would be incorporated into its other streaming services before shutting down for good late in 2022. Hulu will carry Hotstar’s movies and TV series, while ESPN+ will take over Hotstar’s sports programming.
The content shift is already underway. @parikhm on Twitter sent me this screenshot from Hulu on Wednesday, with a panel advertising Hotstar content under the “Hubs” link at the top of the page.
We got even more information today via an email sent to Hotstar subscribers. In addition to sending each subscriber an offer code to upgrade to the Disney bundle (more on that in a bit), the email linked to a page listing all of the movies in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu that are already available on Hulu — find them under the “A-Z” category at the bottom of this page — as well as those films that are “coming soon.” (There are specific pages for TV shows, sports tournaments, and Hotstar Specials as well.) While most movies will make the journey to Hulu, not all will. Notable titles absent from the list include Highway, Junglee, and my beloved Creature 3D.
The movies and shows that have already moved to Hulu are no longer available on Hotstar. Clicking on Bhuj: The Pride of India‘s Hotstar link returns a 404 error. I assume this means that Bhoot Police will release on Hulu and not Hotstar on September 17. When the Indian Premier League cricket season resumes on September 19, ESPN+ will carry the games, not Hotstar.
Considering that Hotstar subscribers would need both Hulu and ESPN+ to access all (well, most) of the content previously available on Hotstar, today’s email includes an offer code allowing users to access the Disney bundle — which includes ad-supported Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ — for the remainder of their Hotstar subscription. Getting access to all of the other Hulu and ESPN+ content plus Disney+ is a nice bonus, especially if your Hotstar subscription renewed recently. A year’s subscription to Hotstar costs $49.99, while a year’s worth of the $13.99/month Disney bundle will set you back $167.88 in total.
There’s the rub. Splitting Hotstar’s content between Hulu and ESPN+ is ultimately going to cost customers a lot more: 3x as much for the lower-tier Disney Bundle, and almost 5x as much if you want the $19.99/month Disney bundle that includes the ad-free version of Hulu ($239.88 annually).
The forced price increase is unfortunate, but par for the course for Disney in recent weeks. From charging visitors to Disney theme parks to skip the standby line at attractions (a formerly free perk) to jacking up the prices of annual passes while stripping benefits, Disney is doing all it can to squeeze every penny out of its customers.
So what are the alternatives? If you only subscribed to Hotstar for the movies and shows, a standalone Hulu subscription with ads costs $5.99/month or $59.99/year, or $11.99/month without ads ($143.88 total for one year, with no annual subscription option). [Update: on October 8, 2021, the price of ad-supported Hulu will increase to $6.99/month or $69.99/year, and ad-free Hulu increases to $12.99/month.] If you’re only interested in cricket, ESPN+ costs $6.99/month or $69.99/year. You’re still going to pay more that you have been with Hotstar, unfortunately. If you wanted to recreate Hotstar by getting annual subscriptions to both EPSN+ and (ad-supported) Hulu, it’ll run you $129.98 — almost $40 cheaper than the Disney Bundle.
For now, this merger only applies to the US. Canada doesn’t even have access to Hulu, so Hotstar lives on north of the border for the time being. In the meantime, I’m gonna rewatch Creature 3D for the millionth time while I still can.