In August last year, Disney was preparing to overwhelm D23 attendees with marketing materials and promotional discounts for soon-to-launch streamer Disney+. Now, the service is one of the few bright spots for a company that has watched its legacy businesses crumble amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nine-month-old Disney+ added 24 million subscribers during the spring quarter, bringing its total base to 57.5 million paid subs, Disney disclosed Tuesday. That number has already ballooned to 60.5 million in early August, CEO Bob Chapek announced Tuesday.
Streaming video has been a lifeline for parents of young children who don’t have school or summer camp for education and entertainment during long work days. Disney+, which focuses on providing family-friendly programming, moved up the streaming release of some titles, including Frozen II and Onward, to offer more options for its subscribers while they spend extra time at home. During the April-to-June period, it also made blockbusters Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Avengers: Infinity War available on the service for the first time.
Disney on Tuesday also said it would accelerate the streaming availability of its live-action Mulan remake, releasing the film on Disney+ on Sept. 4 for an additional $29.99 fee.
With the Nov. 12 launch of Disney+, Disney has become a formidable player in the streaming video space, though it still trails industry leader Netflix, which has 193 million subscribers worldwide. The service picked up 19 Emmy nominations in late July, the most for any newly launched streamer, including an outstanding drama series nod for Jon Favreau’s Star Wars universe-set The Mandalorian.
Disney+ has already passed the low end of its subscriber goal, with the company saying at launch it hoped to hit 60 million to 90 million subs by 2024.
Looking across its streaming portfolio, Disney now has 100 million paying subscribers, Chapek said Tuesday, calling it “a significant milestone and a reaffirmation of our [direct-to-consumer strategy], which we view as key to the future growth of our company.” Disney-owned Hulu, which is only available in the U.S., currently has 35.5 million subscribers. And ESPN+ has 8.5 million subs.
Disney’s success in streaming is leading it to push more aggressively into direct-to-consumer businesses around the world. Chapek announced that the company will launch a new global “general interest” streamer under the Star brand that will feature Disney-owned content. “We want to mirror our successful Disney+ strategy,” Chapek said on a call with investors. He explained that the company decided not to use the Hulu brand that exists in the U.S. because that service “has no brand awareness outside of the U.S.” and also relies on third-party licensed content that it wouldn’t have the rights to stream overseas. Disney plans to launch the new service in 2021. It’s expected to disclose more details at an upcoming investor day.