Disney+ gets off to a flier

Walt Disney executives might have believed the pieces were falling into place to a blockbuster debut, but perhaps even the biggest optimists would have failed to see this coming.

Having launched in the US to much fanfare and collecting 28 million subscriptions in the first six weeks, the team attempted to emulate this success across the pond. There is still a lot of room for growth for the streaming platforms in Europe, and Disney is certainly making a splash.

Five months after first launching the services, Disney is claiming to have secured 50 million paying subscriptions. Momentum should continue to gather over the coming months meaning it should easily surpass the self-imposed target 60 million and 90 million global subscribers by 2024. On this trajectory, it could hit the milestone by the end of year one.

By way of comparison, Netflix claimed to have 158 million subscribers at the end of January and took five years to get to 80 million subscribers.

“Disney is going to smash its own publicly announced subs target,” said analyst Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight. “Disney+ is a blockbuster hit with users. The biggest challenge will always be keeping users entertained. It is fair to say that many users would have signed up to the annual offer or bundles on both sides of the pond. This will help maintain its total base steady for the first year.

“However, Disney and others are not immune to the current challenges of filming new shows. This will have a knock-on effect next year. All eyes are now on Netflix’s first quarter results to see if Disney+ has had a negative impact on subs base.”

As Pescatore states, the risk which Disney faces in the short- to mid-term future is a lack of new content. In terms of depth, it cannot compete with Netflix which has been investing billions in an incredibly varied strategy to create content for ever type of consumer, in every different market. With COVID-19 encouraging more consumers to stream content, the scrutiny will be on the services in ways executives might not have anticipated.

But for the moment, the numbers are encouraging.

“We’re truly humbled that Disney+ is resonating with millions around the globe and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion throughout Western Europe and into Japan and all of Latin America later this year,” said Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International.

“Great storytelling inspires and uplifts, and we are in the fortunate position of being able to deliver a vast array of great entertainment rooted in joy and optimism on Disney+.”

What is unknown for the moment is the regional split of these subscribers. Disney+ has been launched in the US, eight European countries (UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Switzerland) and India.

If Disney+ collected 22 million subscribers in the US by Christmas, months before launching anywhere else, and has also acquired 8 million more in India, there are 20 million unclaimed subscriptions. These will be split between the eight European nations, but would also include US subscribers acquired post December 31.

We’re unlikely to find out these numbers in the immediate future, but it would be very beneficial to find out which of the partnerships in Europe are working better than others.

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