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Disney Projected to Top 130 Million Online Video Subscribers in 5 Years (Analyst)

Disney could have more than 130 million subscribers across its online video services worldwide by 2024, Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne projected in a note to investors Thursday. The forecast resulted in Disney shares trading up 4.4%, while Netflix shares were down 1%.

In the near term, Swinburne expects Disney to sign up 13 million subscribers by the end of 2020. At that point, Disney could have a total of 50 million subscribers across Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus.

Swinburne based his projections on Disney’s faster-than-expected international launch plans for its upcoming Disney Plus service. Disney Plus is scheduled to launch in the U.S. in November, and then come to Western Europe in late 2019 and early 2020. Roll-out across the Asia-Pacific region will  begin in late 2019 and continue through 2021, while a launch in Latin America is planned for early 2021.

At the low end, Disney Plus should gain 60-90 million subscribers in 5 years, Swinburne argued, noting that this would only represent 10% of addressable broadband homes, compared to the 25-30% that Netflix has been able to capture. Even with those conservative numbers, Disney Plus could be profitable by 2024, thanks in part to the fact that the company will need to spend less on brand advertising.

Swinburne also addressed concerns that Disney Plus could cannibalize other revenue streams. “While all valid concerns, we believe the market has often overstated the risk and underappreciated the reward of the transition to streaming,” he wrote. “Stepping back and admittedly taking the long view, investing in Disney shares is a play on the durability of its IP.”

However, Swinburne also cautioned that Disney may face some challenges as it shifts key parts of its business to online video. “Disney is not a tech company in its DNA, nor does it have a long history as a direct-to-consumer digital retailer,” he wrote.

Disney shares jumped $6.02 to $141.74 a share on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Disney stock hit a record high of $142.35 a share in April following the release of mega-hit “Avengers: Endgame.”

Shares of Netflix declined by $2.13 to $343.43 on the Nasdaq on Thursday.

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