Disney has continued its aggressive rollout of its streaming service over the past few weeks. The service launched in South Africa on 18 May and across West Asia and North Africa on 8 June. By the end of this week, Disney+ will be available in 60 countries across Europe, West Asia and Africa. This marks 50 new launch regions in just two months. However, subscribers are still baffled that the service they’re paying for isn’t what they thought it would be. In fact, most of these new launch regions are supported by Disney+ Hotstar but aren’t called that at all.
I have covered the Disney+ Hotstar controversy in quite some depth over the past few weeks. It started with uncovering the fact that while Disney+ is called “Disney+” here in SA and in some other regions, it isn’t the same service.
Hotstar operates outside of the UK, US, Canada and a few select regions and while the library of content is somewhat the same, Hotstar is meant to be the cheaper, lower-quality version of the streaming service. This means if you now have Disney+ in your country and the service requires a cellphone number to sign-up for a membership, you have the Hotstar version. There’s no if, but or maybe about it.
Get ready to see this… a lot
I also tested out this Disney+ Hotstar version across a number of apps. This included using an LG, Sony and Samsung TV as well as web browsers, Android boxes and Apple TV. I discovered that this Hotstar version of Disney+ is drastically different from the UK, US and Canada variants.
Streams struggle to hit 4K across most devices with an upscaled 720p image quality across most TVs. Web browsers and mobile apps don’t go higher than 1080p and feature no Dolby Vision or Atmos support at all. The only way you can get true 4K HDR content using Disney+ Hotstar is through an Apple TV device or a dedicated Android TV device like a Chromecast or media box. Built-in Android TVs don’t achieve 4K.
All over Reddit, new Disney+ subscribers have been scratching their heads asking questions like “why is the browser quality so bad”, “where is HDR on my iPhone”, and “why is Obi-One so blurry”. Well, now you know. Your Disney+ isn’t what it seems. There are no IMAX versions of movies, there’s no download option, there’s no PS4/PS5 or Xbox app, you can’t stream 4K and get ready for a horrible app experience too.
Built-in Android TVs stream at 720p
The Disney+ Hotstar app is horrendous. Streams fail to load, fast-forwarding through content is sluggish, it doesn’t correctly keep track of where you left off when going to a new device and it is missing all the extra features the other regions have access to.
But it isn’t all bad news. Some of the newer Disney+ launch regions were actually given the better, premium version of the service. Countries like Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Hungary have the non-Hotstar version. This means you can enjoy full 4K content across movies and shows as well as IMAX versions of certain movies.
This is definitely not the Hotstar version
Sadly, other regions, most of which seem to be in the MENA territory have all been dumped with Disney+ Hotstar. To tell whether or not you’ve got the better Disney+ or the version that has half the features, just check your service. Here are a few things to look out for.
How to Tell if You Got Disney+ Hotstar
- No PS4, PS5 or Xbox app
- The app has no “Extras” feature for certain content
- No IMAX streaming support
- No Dolby Atmos/Vision tags on content
- The app is slow and buggy
- No download feature is available (in certain Hotstar regions)
- iPad App has no landscape mode
- Only 15 Avatars are available
- No Group Watch feature
- No trailer feature
- No sharing feature
Those are just a few features that are missing on the Disney+ Hotstar version. Remember, the app isn’t called “Disney+ Hotstar” in regions outside of India but in fact, it is the same thing so be sure to look out for this before signing up.
I don’t know if Disney plans on improving the service in Hotstar regions. It has been out for almost a month here in South Africa and nothing has changed at all. The app has seen no new features added, no bugs have been sorted and we are still missing console apps.
On 16 June, Disney+ will be available in the following regions: Austria, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Palestine Territories, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, U.K., Vatican City and Yemen.