Disney possibly to close 18 channels in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong

In a possible surprising turn of events, Disney may discontinue 18 channels for viewers in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong from October 2021. The end-of-an-era move could have a major impact on the entire video entertainment supply chain in the region.

Disney staffers were informed about the decision at a town hall out of Singapore on Tuesday, according to sources close to the development. The efforts are aimed at enabling the organisation “to align its resources more efficiently and effectively to current and future business needs.” This comes after Disney pulled the plug of its channels in the UK, Singapore and other regions to make way for Disney+. However, an official announcement is yet to be released from the media conglomerate.

The move is believed to be part of The House of Mouse’s global efforts towards a direct-to-consumer-first model and further stimulating the growth of its streaming services. A senior media person opined that India is unlikely to be affected by the move, which, while unfortunate, is not entirely unexpected. Last year, the M&E (media and entertainment) colossus restructured its global operations – involving separating its India and Asia Pacific businesses after APAC president and Star and Disney India chairman Uday Shankar resigned from his position; and hiring new talent to spearhead its SVoD push in the southeast region.

With Disney closing 18 channels, the ones to be axed from the airwaves are – Fox, Fox Crime, Fox Life, and FX, movie channels including Fox Action Movies, Fox Family Movies, Fox Movies, and Star Movies China and some sports channels like Fox Sports, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3, Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2. Popular kids channels including Disney Channel and Disney Junior, music channel Channel V and actual services Nat Geo People; and SCM Legend could also go off air in the region. This leaves a big question mark on how the other pay TV platforms will fill the void.

The multimedia giant is quickly strengthening its foothold in the streaming space. Since its launch in November 2019, Disney+ has transformed itself into a streaming leader, with membership numbers soaring high surpassing long-term forecasts.

To date, Disney has rolled out Disney+ in Singapore along with a separate Hotstar app, and hybrid service Disney+ Hotstar in Indonesia. The company is likely to launch the OTT service in other parts of southeast Asia and Hong Kong  this year. Disney+ has 2.6 lakh paid subscribers in Singapore as of April 2021 and 4.5 million in Indonesia, according to estimates presented by regional industry analysts Media Partners Asia.