The Disney+ streaming service has gained over 60 million subscribers since its launch in November 2019, already beating its conservative five-year objective. Hulu, now also controlled by Disney, has 35.5 million subscribers, including 3.4 million live television customers, up from 25.7 million in a year. The ESPN+ sports service added over six million customers in a year, for a total of 8.5 million. That gives Disney a total of 100 million paid subscriptions. Disney is now planning to launch another international online service under the Star brand.
At the end of June, Disney+ had 57.5 million subscribers. Speaking to analysts, Bob Chapek, the chief executive of The Walt Disney Company, said the number had passed 60.5 million.
“As our global sub numbers continue to grow, we’ve also exceeded our internal subscriber projections in every major market we’ve launched thus far. The tremendous success of Disney+ in less than a year clearly establishes us as a major force in the global direct-to-consumer space.”
“We will continue our international expansion with the launch of Disney+ in the Nordics, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Portugal in September and in Latin America this November. And I’m happy to announce that we will also be rolling out Disney+ Hotstar on September 5 in Indonesia, one of the world’s most populous countries. By year-end, Disney+ will be available in nine of the top 10 economies in the world.”
“When you look across our full portfolio of direct-to-consumer businesses at Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, our combined global reach now exceeds an astounding 100 million paid subscriptions,” he said. “This is a significant milestone and a reaffirmation of our strategy for growth. In fact, the incredible success we’ve achieved to date has made us even more confident about the future of our direct-to-consumer business and our ability to be more aggressive in our approach.”
“In light of the success that we’ve achieved thus far with our global direct-to-consumer business and bolstered by our ability to deliver the exceptional brands, franchises and storytelling that consumers around the world have demonstrated a tremendous affinity for, we intend to take full advantage of that opportunity.”
The company will be releasing the movie Mulan to Disney+ subscribers on a pay-per-view basis at a cost of $29.99 in the United States. It says this is a one-off initiative, as it has been unable to release it theatrically due to coronavirus restrictions. No doubt it will monitor the impact in terms of transactions and subscribers.
Disney also plans to launch an international, direct-to-consumer, general entertainment offering under the Star brand in 2021. It will be based on the output and libraries of ABC Studios, Fox Television, FX, Freeform, 20th Century Studios, and Searchlight. In many markets, the offering will be fully integrated into our established Disney+ platform from both a marketing and a technology perspective.
The Disney chief executive said that this was because Hulu “no brand awareness” outside the United States and does not have programming that is licensed internationally.
Disney is building a strong direct-to-consumer story, which distracts from the impact of coronavirus restrictions on other areas of the business.
In the nine months to the end of June 2020, direct-to-consumer and international revenue doubled to $12.11 billion. However, in the second quarter it was only up by 2% year-on-year.
The direct-to-consumer and international business saw an increased operating loss of $0.71 billion for the second quarter, up from $0.56 billion the same quarter the previous year. That was due to costs associated with the ongoing launch of Disney+.
Average revenue for Disney+ subscribers was $4.62, while that for ESPN+ was $4.18. For Hulu on demand it was $11.39, while for those taking live television it was $68.11.
Overall, total revenues for the second quarter were down 42% to $11.78 billion, weighed down by an 85% reduction in revenue in the parks, experiences and products business, and a 55% decline in studio entertainment.
That produced a 72% reduction in total operating income for the quarter, down to $1.10 billion.