‘The Mandalorian,’ ‘Soul’ Push Disney+ Subscribers to 95 Million

A new season of The Mandalorian and Pixar film Soul helped propel Disney+ to 94.9 million subscribers during the final three months of the year.

That means the 15-month-old streaming service added 8.1 million members during the month of December alone. Disney last disclosed that as of Dec. 2, Disney+ had attracted 86.8 million subs.

Disney has now topped the 90 million goal that it had previously set for Disney+ sign-ups by the end of fiscal 2024. It has also hit a milestone that took Netflix nearly a decade to reach.

Disney+ has been able to achieve significant market penetration thanks in large part to its relationship with Indian streamer Hotstar, which it acquired as part of its purchase of the 20th Century Fox assets. The company disclosed in December that Hotstar, which comes bundled with Disney+ programming in India, accounted for 30 percent — or around 26 million — of Disney+’s total subscribers.

The lower-priced Hotstar service and discounted bundles drove the average monthly revenue per paid subscriber for Disney+ down by 28 percent to $4.03. (The service currently costs $7 per month, a fee that will increase to $8 in March.)

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Disney+, which launched in November 2019, kicked off its second year in operation with a new season of tentpole original The Mandalorian. It also moved Pixar’s Soul, which was originally intended for a theatrical release, to the service for a Christmas Day debut. Other programming that premiered during the quarter included NASA drama series The Right Stuff.

Speaking on a call with investors, CEO Bob Chapek touted the release of Soul as “a really nice thing to do for our consumer base.” He added that the company was “absolutely thrilled by what [the release] brought to our business both in terms of acquisition and retention” of subscribers.

Disney also operates streaming services Hulu and ESPN+. Hulu, which released films Bad Hair, Run and Happiest Season during the final three months of the year, ended 2020 with 39.4 million subscribers. ESPN+ had 12.1 million subs. Combined, Disney now has 146 million total paid streaming subscribers.

Despite the subscriber growth, streaming remains a money loser for Disney. Direct-to-consumer platforms generated $3.5 billion in revenue during the fiscal first quarter but lost $466 million, a decrease from $1.1 billion in losses during the same period last year.

Disney attributed the increase in revenue and decline in operating losses to an increase in subscribers and advertising revenue at Hulu. CFO Christine McCarthy told investors that most of Hulu’s subscribers are signed up for the ad-supported plan, which has helped with the growth of its advertising business. “We like the mix that we have,” she noted.

To some extent, Disney+ also contributed to the positive trend due to the increase in subscribers to the service. Disney expects losses at Disney+ to peak this year and for the service to become profitable in fiscal 2024.

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