Though most of the Disney franchise is suffering during the coronavirus crisis, Disney Plus has found its niche, attracting 50 million paid subscribers in just five months, reports The New York Times. The Disney-owned streaming video on demand service launched last November in the United States with family-friendly content that includes Disney originals and other licensed movies and TV shows. In early February, Disney reported that it had 28.6 million paid subscribers. Industry experts speculate that the spike in Disney Plus subscriptions is due to the “stay at home” orders in the majority of states as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re truly humbled that Disney Plus is resonating with millions around the globe, and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion,” Mayer said in a statement Wednesday. “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 Plus.”
In addition to the millions of American families staying home, fans of the Frozen and Star Wars movie franchises may also be partly responsible for the increase in Disney Plus subscriptions. Disney debuted Frozen II on Disney Plus three months earlier than planned.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was released for early purchase as well. Other popular originals on Disney include The Mandalorian, Pixar in Real Life, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Marvel Hero Project, and a live-action version of the 1955 Disney classic Lady and the Tramp.
In the U.S., Disney Plus is available for $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year, following a seven-day free trial. Disney Plus includes Disney content, as well as programming from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. Disney is also offering a bundled package with Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus for $12.99 a month. Granted, ESPN Plus does not have any live sports to offer right now, but the bundle is still a pretty good deal.
Disney Plus is currently available in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, says Business Insider. Disney Plus officially launched in India on April 3, reports Variety, amassing 8 million subscribers in less than a week. In the summer of 2020, Disney Plus will be available in Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. The new streaming service is expected to debut in Japan and Latin America by year end.
The New York Times reports that Disney has lost an estimated $70 billion in market capitalization since the beginning of February with theme park business, television production and merchandise sales coming to a halt. The Times says that executive salaries have been reduced by 30% and, starting April 19, the company will begin putting nonessential employees on furlough to cut costs.
To provide some context, Netflix, which is also available globally, had 167 million subscribers worldwide, including 60 million in the United States. Hulu has 30 million subscribers, but it is only available in the United States.
Bottom line: Disney Plus is off to a very good start. Disney has a wonderful reputation, and its family-friendly content is welcome in many households right now, particularly with children out of school for the balance of the school year in most communities. It has great originals and is offered at an affordable price point. The company’s decision to release Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker early were a good way to attract new subscribers. At some point, paid subscriptions will slow for Disney Plus, but we expect to see steady growth for at least the balance of the year.