"We Could Actually Break the Internet": Disney+'s Seamless European Launch During Pandemic

Courtesy of Subject; Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
Joe Inzerillo, Jerrell Jimerson

Joe Inzerillo and Jerrell Jimerson, the duo responsible for the technical infrastructure and product experience for the high-priority new streamer — who are among THR's Top Hollywood Innovators — planned for a fast rollout of Disney+'s European launches (during lockdown, no less).

Joe Inzerillo and Jerrell Jimerson were nearing the next phase in their global rollout of Disney+ when the novel coronavirus shut down everyday activities throughout the world.

The duo, responsible for the technical infrastructure and product experience for the high-priority new streamer, already had brought Disney+ to the U.S. and Canada with a successful (albeit a tad glitchy) November launch, which garnered 10 million sign-ups in one day. But that was just the beginning. By early March, they were working at what Inzerillo calls a "breakneck pace" to launch Disney+ in eight more countries, including the U.K., France and Italy. "We knew we were going to be deploying quickly, faster than anyone had done it before," he says. (It took Netflix several years to launch in those same markets at the dawn of streaming.)

They had begun contemplating the challenges of the global rollout "months and months in advance," says Jimerson, explaining that for every country, they had to create a localized user interface, introduce the correct payment methods, determine content ratings and navigate varying internet infrastructures. Ultimately, despite the pandemic, Disney moved forward with the European launches for Disney+, though they delayed the service's debut in France at the request of the country's government and lowered its bandwidth use by 25 percent across Europe to minimize congestion for those relying on Wi-Fi to work from home. "The joke about people breaking the internet — this was a case of, we could actually break the internet," says Inzerillo.

The European launches boosted Disney+ to 50 million paid subscribers — well on its way to a goal of up to 90 million subs by 2024. Now, Inzerillo and Jimerson are turning their attention to bringing the service to the rest of the world. 

This story first appeared in the May 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.