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The Walt Disney Co. revealed Thursday that Disney+ will launch in South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan in November 2021. The addition of the three mature Asian markets should provide yet another subscriber uptick for the nascent direct-to-consumer service, which beat analyst estimates during its third-quarter earnings report this week, adding 13 million subscribers for a total of 116 million, 1 million more than was expected.
Disney+ is currently available in Asia in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Disney said Thursday that average monthly revenue per paid user (ARPU) for Disney+ fell to $4.16 from $4.62 a year earlier, due to the recent launch in the past year in lower-cost emerging markets like Southeast Asia.
But the company said Disney+ will be expanded in Japan in October to feature additional general entertainment content from the Star brand. The addition of the three mature markets of South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, combined with the expansion in Japan, where subscription fees resemble the U.S. market, should help boost ARPUs in Asia in the quarters ahead.
“Disney+ has helped grow the SVOD category meaningfully wherever they have launched or added the Star GE brand across Asia Pacific over the past year,” commented Vivek Couto, executive director of regional consultancy Media Partners Asia. The forthcoming Asia launches and the expansion in Japan “are important catalysts for a number of things,” added Couto, “including higher ARPU subscriber growth, material investment into premium Korean storytelling and Japanese live-action, as well as a real SVOD window for Disney’s entertainment franchises for the first time — especially in South Korea.”
Disney’s third-quarter earnings came in strong across the board Thursday, with the entertainment giant reporting revenue of $17 billion. The market consensus had been for revenues of $16.8 billion. Earnings per share were 80 cents, blowing past the estimate of $55 cents. The company’s stock was up more than 10 percent in after-market trading.
The company’s theme parks business, by far the most battered segment by the pandemic, swung to a profit for the first time since COVID-19 emerged, drawing revenue of $4.3 billion and income of $356 million. Disney CFO Christine McCarthy said Disney World is now operating at or near capacity, but she acknowledged that the Delta variant of the coronavirus has introduced some uncertainty to the outlook for theatrical filmgoing, theme parks and the cruise ship business.
“The response towards Disney+ across Asia Pacific has exceeded our expectations, as consumers seek diverse entertainment content and are drawn to our portfolio of brands and franchises,” said Luke Kang, president of The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific. “We are pleased with the subscriber growth and partnerships forged in markets, and look forward to engaging with more consumers across the region.”
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