February 12, 2021

Disney+ subscribers grew by 258% in a year as it nears 100m

By Robert Scammell

Streaming service Disney+ now has 94.9 million paid subscribers after a meteoric surge of 258% year on year.

Launched in November 2019, Disney’s answer to Netflix reached 26.6 million paid subscribers by the end of that quarter on 28 December.

Throughout 2020 consumers flocked to the video-on-demand service to access Disney’s extensive back catalogue of films and original releases such as The Mandalorian.

Disney originally aimed to reach 90 million Disney+ subscribers in four years but has instead surpassed that in 14 months, bolstered by the stay at home restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The entertainment giant now has a new goal of reaching between 230 million and 260 million subscribers by 2024.

This rapid subscriber growth puts it hot on the tail of rival Netflix. Last month, Netflix reached 203.6 million subscribers worldwide, having also seen subscriber growth surge due to the pandemic.

Direct-to-consumer has been a rare bright spot for Disney during 2020, with revenue from its theme parks and film releases decimated by coronavirus restrictions.

Overall first-quarter revenue for fiscal 2021 at the Walt Disney Company totalled $16.25bn, a 22% year-on-year decline.

But results were a very different story for Disney’s streaming services. For the quarter ended 2 January 2021, Disney’s direct-to-consumer segment brought in total revenues of $3.5bn, a 73% year-on-year jump.

The direct-to-consumer segment includes streaming services ESPN+ and Hulu, in addition to Disney+.

ESPN+ paid subscribers increased by 83% year on year from 6.6 million to 12.1 million. Paid Hulu subscribers reached 39.4 million, a 30% increase on the year-ago period.

However, average monthly revenue per paid Disney+ subscriber decreased from $5.56 to $4.03 in the most recent quarter. This was due to the launch of Disney+ Hotstar, an international streaming service, the company said.

“With almost 95 million paid subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service in little over a year of existence, the company is winning in streaming wars where many deep-pocketed players are active,” said Haris Anwar, senior analyst at uk.Investing.com.

“Despite the big positives in this report, the company also said the Covid-19 outbreak cost this division around $2.6 billion in lost operating income during the quarter. This clearly shows that Covid restrictions are taking a huge toll on its entertainment assets, including parks and movie theatres.

“If this situation persists it will be extremely difficult for the company to continue being profitable.”

Read more: Streaming services investment a wise move for Disney