Disney to Raise Direct-to-Consumer Streaming Prices in March 2021

Company has more than 137 million paid subscribers.

Disney announced some unexpected changes to its direct-to-consumer streaming services during Investor Day 2020 last week. Effective March 26, 2021, the monthly price for the Disney+ streaming subscription service will increase from $6.99 to $7.99. The annual fee will increase from $69.99 to $79.99 per year. The monthly price for the Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ streaming subscription bundle will increase from $12.99 to $13.99.

Direct-to-consumer streaming success

During the December 10 presentation, Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company, revealed statistics showing the company’s success with its direct-to-consumer streaming services.

  • As of December 2, Disney DTC streaming services had 137 million global paid subscriptions.
  • ESPN+ has 11.5 million subscribers, Hulu has 38.8 million subscribers, and Disney+ has 86.8 million subscribers since its November 2019 launch.
  • The Walt Disney Company predicts that it will have 300 million to 350 million total direct-to-consumer subscribers by fiscal 2024.

“The tremendous success we’ve achieved across our unique portfolio of streaming services, with more than 137 million subscriptions worldwide, has bolstered our confidence in our acceleration toward a DTC-first business model,” said Chapek. “With our amazing creative teams and our ever-growing collection of the high-quality branded entertainment that consumers want, we believe we are incredibly well positioned to achieve our long-term goals.”

What’s next

Disney made several additional announcements about what we can expect in the coming months and years. Here are highlights:

  • Disney has made an agreement with Comcast to broadcast Disney+ and ESPN+ to Comcast X1 set-top boxes and flex platforms in the first quarter of next year. Hulu is already available via Comcast.
  • The company has a goal to release over 100 titles every year for Disney including content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
  • Over the next several years, Disney hopes to release 10 Star Wars series, 10 Marvel series and 15 Disney live action, Disney animation and Pixar series.
  • Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Raya and the Last Dragon” will be a premier addition to Disney+, debuting on March 5, the same day it is released in theaters. To watch on Disney+, subscribers will pay an additional $29.99.
  • Disney also released titles of planned content including programming for Disney, National Geographic, Hulu, Star, FX, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel and ESPN.

“This incredible slate of new original content reflects our continuing commitment to harness the resources and immense creativity across our company to bring audiences extraordinary entertainment experiences unlike anything else in the market,” said Bob Iger, executive chairman and chairman of the board. “We’re proud that the unparalleled quality of our storytelling from our iconic brands remains evident across all distribution platforms, from movie theaters to our direct-to-consumer services.”

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Launch of Star

  • Disney is launching the international entertainment brand Star in Europe on February 23, 2021. Star will be priced at €8.99 per month or €89.90 per year.
  • Star will also oll out to Singapore, Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea.
  • Star will be included as part of Disney+ in select markets, and launch as a separate streaming service called Star+ in Latin America.
  • Star will include TV shows and movies from Disney’s studios, FX, 20th Century Studios, 20th Television, as well as local programming where available.
  • Additional information, including pricing by market, is available via Disney’s Investor Day 2020 Fact Sheet.
In February 2021, Disney will launch international direct-to-consumer streaming brand Star.
In February 2021, Disney will launch international direct-to-consumer streaming brand Star. Image courtesy of Disney.

Insider Take

Disney is definitely dialing things up, taking advantage of its success in the DTC streaming world. The company has seen astounding success with Disney+, and the addition of Star on the international streaming stage could be big for the entertainment company. The content line-up and commitment to DTC streaming going forward is impressive.

What we are most interested in, of course, is how they are shifting their business model. When Disney+ first launched a year ago, the streaming subscription service offered a free trial. In June, they discontinued the free trial, just ahead of the debut of “Hamilton.” In September, the company charged a premium fee to watch “Mulan,” the action adventure film. In November, Disney raised the price of Hulu + Live TV by $10 per month, and now they are raising prices for their other DTC streaming services and the bundle. We are curious to see what other changes to their business model they may have in store in 2021.