Disney+ stays put on subscriber guidance despite overwhelming response

The platform saw 50 per cent of subscribers signing up directly.


MUMBAI: There was a widespread high expectation for Disney+ and the streaming service had more than 10 million sign-ups by the end of first day. Within a few months of its entry, Disney+ acquired 28.6 million paid subscribers surpassing all previous estimates. Although the media conglomerate seems excited with the positive response, it is not changing the guidance currently.

“We’re just beginning there, and I think it's just premature for us to take our guidance up. What we do know, of course, is that we have reached a number in the United States that since you did the math that would suggest that we're at the number that we predicted we would be in year five, just after a very short period of time, and I don't know whether that is a statement about the total available market or the quality of the product or both, or the price. It is just the way I think a number of factors that I've touched upon, and I just - I'll go over them one more time,” Disney chairman and chief executive officer Robert Iger stated in an earnings call.

While Disney projected between 60-90 million global subscribers by 2024, it counted on two-thirds of that from subscribers outside the United States. As the streaming service has not been launched in most of those markets, Iger said it is more of a challenge to launch in those markets and needs more marketing efforts. Although the interest in streaming is not as high as US in those markets, he mentioned that these markets have been seeded with streaming.

The platform saw 50 per cent of subscribers signing up directly while Verizon partnership made way for 20 per cent subscribers. Rest of the subscribers came from other services including Apple, Google, LG, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and Roku. Moreover, the bundle with ESPN and Hulu was very helpful in terms of lowering churn rates.

“The fact that the ARPU by the end of the quarter was $5.56 on a $6.99 subscription suggests that while there were discounts in the market in the packaging that existed enabled consumers to buy in at lower prices. We did extremely well, basically with the Direct-to-Consumer Package,” Iger added.

As Igers shared, users have adored the  offering of classic movies and shorts from the studio including Moana and Frozen, Disney Channel series like Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, recent theatrical releases like The Lion King. Along with old library, subscribers have shown interest to growing slate of original content especially The Mandalorian which has “quickly become a bonafide hit and a cultural phenomenon”.

“We know there is great anticipation for the substantial array of Baby Yoda consumer products hitting the market in the coming months. We'll continue to add high quality content to the service that includes Frozen 2, and Episode 9, The Rise of Skywalker. Many of you probably saw our Super Bowl spot featuring three original new Marvel series for Disney Plus. Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will premiere on the service in August and Wandavision, which will debut in December,” Iger stated.

However, the trajectory in terms of investment in original programming on the service is roughly the same as it would have been or as was before the launch. The company has not brought significant change in the investment.

Although Disney is working up a plan to take its other streaming service Hulu internationally, it has decided that the priority needs to be Disney+. It is going to be launched cross multiple territories in Western Europe, and India on 29 March. Following that, it is going to continue to roll out across the world going into 2021 including Latin America. Hulu’s international expansion will come right after or soon after that.

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