Disney+ nears 100m subscribers, beating four-year target in 14 months


Disney+ has continued its march towards 100m subscribers, ending Q1 2021 with 94.9m users globally.

The figure is up from the 86m subscribers declared at Disney’s December investors day, and means that Disney+ has surpassed its four-year goal in just 14 months. As such, Disney has revised that goal to a much more lofty target of 230-260m subscribers by 2024.

In positive reading for Disney, the subscriber count was tallied on 2 January, which includes holiday surges from the launch of Pixar’s Soul and the final episodes of The Mandalorian’s second season, but would not factor in the viral hit that is Marvel series WandaVision. With the show dominating discussions online, it is likely that Disney+ has already surpassed 100m subscribers.

While Disney+ is the clear driving force behind Disney’s DTC business, Hulu and ESPN+ continue to perform well with 39.4m and 12.1m subscribers respectively. The segment’s revenue was up 73% year-over-year to US$3.5bn, though ARPU has dropped to US$4.03 due to the lower cost of Disney+ Hotstar in India and Indonesia.

Speaking on the company’s earnings call, CEO Bob Chapek described Disney+ as “a great price-value relationship” and said that there’s “no better way to do it than powerhouse franchises cranking out regular new releases on a monthly basis.”

Bob Chapek

Star power

Chapek also spoke about Star, the major expansion to Disney+ in international markets which will incorporate a significant amount of content from its more adult-oriented studios and networks like ABC and 21st Century Fox. He said that Star “will offer thousands of hours of movies and television from the company’s multiple studios” and be integrated into Disney+ as “a distinct sixth brand tile.”

This is also the first quarter in Disney’s reporting since its October 2020 restructuring that sees DTC, linear networks, content sales/licensing (which includes theatrical, home entertainment and third-party TV and SVOD distribution) feed into a single media and entertainment distribution. This model, which Disney previously said would allow it to be more responsive to consumer demands, will allow the company to offset potential box office slip-ups with the ongoing streaming success.

Overall, Disney’s quarterly revenue sat at US$16.25bn, down from US$20.88bn a year earlier but above analysts’ estimates of US$15.93bn.

The CEO surmised the quarter: “While these remain challenging times, we are more confident than ever that we will emerge from this crisis in a strong position. We’re proud of all that we’ve accomplished, especially as it relates to our top priority our DTC business and we believe that the strategic actions we’re taking to transform our company will enable us to enhance the consumer and guest experience, grow and expand our businesses and increase shareholder value.”

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