Before Disney+ launched in the November of 2019, the Walt Disney Company was hoping to cross the threshold of 90 million subscribers by the end of the year 2024. It’s safe to say they annihilated that goal: today, the company reports that it has already reached 95 million subscribers worldwide, three years earlier than anticipated and just 14 months after its initial launch. That means Disney+ is already almost halfway to Netflix’s global subscriber total.
THR points out that Disney+ added 8.1 million subscribers in December of 2020 alone, piling onto the 86.8 million subscribers it had at the beginning of that month. That’s likely thanks to the presence of Pixar’s Soul, which has been consistently performing well on the charts of companies that measure viewership across different streaming services. Of course, it also helps to have a massive archive of family-friendly classics, a ton of properties from the acquisition of 20th Century Fox, and a phenomenon original series like The Mandalorian, too. I would not be surprised if a big portion of those subscribers came in the wake of Disney’s big investor day in early December, in which it announced what felt like 9,000 new film and TV projects in an attempt to carve out a permanent place for itself in the pop culture landscape.
Netflix is still the King of Streaming Mountain with just over 200 million subscribers worldwide, but Disney+ is slowly making inroads. Folks who study this stuff way closer than I do suggest that the rapid growth of Disney+ is because of international launches, which will soon slow down and eventually result in a plateauing of the subscriber numbers. I imagine it will be a hard fight to actually surpass Netflix, since that company had such a huge head start in the streaming space and continues to churn out tons of content (most of it hit or miss, but the “hits” seem to drive tons of conversation).
Still, the fact that it took Netflix nine years to reach 95 million customers and it took Disney only 14 months is pretty staggering, and really shows the uphill battle that Netflix was fighting in the beginning and how streaming services, once a niche thing, have become second-nature in our society.
But Disney’s quarterly earnings call was far from just bathing in the glory of those streaming subscribers. The company has been pummeled by the pandemic, resulting in this jaw-dropping statistic:
Whoa. That really puts into clear perspective just how important Disney’s theme park business is to the company’s bottom line during a normal year. With Disneyland still closed, they didn’t stand a chance of approaching anywhere near what a normal year’s numbers might look like.
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