The Walt Disney Company just unleashed its first quarterly earnings report for 2020 revealing that its Disney+ streaming service is off to an impressive start.
Paid subscribers for Disney+ more than doubled from 10 million during the first week of availability, to 26.5 million users by the end of 2019. CEO Bob Iger said the service has continued growing since then and currently has 28.6 million subscribers as of today.
The growth of Disney+ since its launch in mid-November 2019 has been meteoric. Netflix, which is has been building its subscriber base for years, reported 67.66 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada at the end of 2019.
Apple hasn’t released subscriber numbers for Apple TV+ yet. Two different reports have estimated that Apple TV+ has either 10 million subscribers or maybe more than 33 million, so it’s hard to guess how the service’s growth compares to Disney+.
Disney+’s strong start
“The launch of Disney plus has been enormously successful, “ said Iger during a call today with investors. “We believe the subscriber growth to date and the overall reaction to Disney plus reflects a variety of factors that include the uniqueness of the service, an excellent user interface, and the high quality of our brands and content.”
Disney+’s subscriber numbers came in well above industry analysts’ expectations of around 20 million. The average monthly revenue per paid subscriber on Disney+ was $5.56. It’s not clear how many, if any, of the Disney+ subscribers were added through free trials with Verizon and other partners. Disney defines a paid subscriber as someone who “we recognized subscription revenue.” Customers who got Disney+ through free trials may not re-subscribe once the trial is up.
Disney’s overall revenue grew 36% to $20.86 billion. The company is ready to invest heavily in new content too. Movie studio spending rose from $309 million a year ago to $948 million. Iger revealed Marvel’s TV series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will debut in August, while the popular live-action space western Mandalorian will return for season 2 in. October.
The streaming wars are only set to get more competitive too. AT&T is set to launch HBO Max later this year and NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is set to launch nationally on July 15.
Iger re-confirmed Disney+ will launch in Western Europe on March 24th, but reported for the first time that the service will debut in India on March 29th. Disney+ is nowhere close to being profitable. The company announced its direct-to-consumer and international business to generate about $900 million in operating losses for the second quarter.
Iger said the programming Disney+ subscribers have been watching is “very broad based” ranging from older repeats and new content produce exclusively for the service. “About 65% of the people who watched Mandalorian watched at least 10 other things on service, so this was not about any one thing,” he commented.