For fans of HBO shows in India, April 1 dealt quite the Fools’ Day blow.
The American television network pulled its entire content library from Disney+ Hotstar because it couldn’t work out a renewal deal with Disney.
Disney+ Hotstar was the only platform for Indians to legally watch HBO’s popular shows like The Last of Us, House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones, and Silicon Valley, among others. Though HBO has announced its streaming service, Max, it’s yet to finalize a launch date for India.
So, Indian fans of HBO’s Succession — who had watched the new season’s first episode on Disney+ Hotstar on March 26 — had only one recourse for the second episode: piracy.
Vineet, design head at a product company in Bengaluru, told me he tried to get an HBO subscription using a VPN, so that he could watch the show legally. But when that didn’t work, he resorted to downloading pirated versions of all the new episodes.
Vineet said he couldn’t wait for HBO’s Max because the internet would soon be flooded with spoilers. “After the third episode, there was a lot of news on the show,” the 33-year-old said. “People around me suddenly really wanted to know where they could get the show. Every time there’s a wave of popularity because of something that happened on the show, people get curious and want to watch.”
Law student Avanee bought a Disney+ Hotstar subscription after a Succession binge on her friend’s account during Christmas vacation last year. “I watched all three seasons in a week. I was addicted,” she told me.
“I bought the annual subscription right after to watch Succession season 4. I was very upset [when HBO pulled out],” the 26-year-old said.
Though Avanee is yet to watch the new season, she had tried watching the show on a website that streamed pirated videos. It didn’t work. “I intend on getting my tech-savvy friend to download it for me and share it on a [USB] drive,” she said.
Piracy is a major issue in India — streaming platforms lose 25–30% of their revenues to it. Pirated movies and TV shows were estimated to have resulted in a $2.3 billion loss over the past year.
Though Max will eventually (hopefully!) bring HBO shows and movies to India, Vineet said he already has too many subscriptions to add one more.
“I have at least five other subscriptions,” he said. “Is [Max] worth it? What happens after Succession? I bought Hotstar for a similar reason but now there’s nothing on it, including Formula 1.” Vineet has since paid for an F1TV subscription.
Avanee also doesn’t plan on subscribing to Max. “This was really stupid of HBO, they could’ve waited till after Succession to pull out.”