Disney+ has confounded pundit declarations that streaming is struggling after signing on an impressive 7.9 million subscribers during the last quarter.
The figure paints a stark picture of the diverging fortunes of the two biggest streamers as a chastened Netflix reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers over the same period. Disney’s delight stems from an influx of fresh-faced viewers, who collectively smashed the Wall Street consensus that growth would amount to between 4.5 million and 5 million additional customers.
While subscriber growth surprised on the upside, the same could not be said for revenues, which at $19.2bn fell short of the $20.1bn that had been anticipated – suggesting that Disney is struggling to find a sustainable commercial footing.
In response to these challenges, an ad-supported tier is expected soon to screen price hikes on its ad-free package safe in the knowledge that viewers have a fallback option other than canceling outright. Chief executive officer Bob Chapek said: “That is going to give us the ability to adjust our price while maintaining our strong value position. We believe that great content is going to drive our subs and that greater subs will drive profitability.”
Chief finance officer Christine McCarthy offered a more subdued perspective, dampening expectations for the remainder of the year by cautioning that Disney is entering new markets such as Poland that have been disproportionately impacted by the war in Ukraine.
Elsewhere in Disney’s magic streaming kingdom, an additional 300,000 subscribers lapped up Hulu, taking its viewer base to 45.6 million, while ESPN+ drew in 1 million more subscribers to hit 22.3 million.
Disney+ hit the ground running with ‘explosive’ growth at launch and now boasts 137.7 million subscribers; however, it is still some way off the estimated 222 million paid subscribers over at Netflix.