As the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer at the Walt Disney Company’s theme parks and studio entertainment divisions, the company announced in its fourth-quarter earning report that Disney Plus has reached 73.7 million paying subscribers as of Oct. 3, with the streaming service proving to be a bright spot for the entertainment giant.
That marks a leap from the 60.5 million paying subscribers that Disney Plus had when Disney last reported earnings in early August. Hulu now has 36.6 million total paying subscribers, up from 35.5 million in late June, while ESPN Plus has grown to 10.3 million subscribers, up from 8.5 million reported last quarter.
Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international segment revenue grew 41% to $4.9 billion during the quarter, while segment operating loss declined from $751 million to $580 million, as a result of better results at Hulu and ESPN Plus, said the company.
“Even with the disruption caused by COVID-19, we’ve been able to effectively manage our businesses while also taking bold, deliberate steps to position our company for greater long-term growth,” said Disney CEO Bob Chapek in prepared remarks. “The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company, and on this anniversary of the launch of Disney+ we’re pleased to report that, as of the end of the fourth quarter, the service had more than 73 million paid subscribers – far surpassing our expectations in just its first year.”
Surpassing 73 million subscribers in its first year on the market is no small feat. Disney Plus’ 1-year anniversary is exactly today, Nov. 12, and has already wildly outperformed other streaming rivals in its first year out of the gate. For contrast, streaming leader Netflix has over 195 million subscribers, about a third of which are in the U.S. and Canada, but that is a milestone that has taken the better part of a decade to achieve.
Shows like live-action “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian,” Beyonce’s “Black Is King” and the filmed performance of the Broadway production of “Hamilton” have stirred enthusiasm for Disney Plus, as has the decision to have “Mulan” bypass movie theaters in favor of premiering directly on the streaming platform amid the COVID-19 crisis. Disney also plan to debut a global direct-to-consumer general entertainment offering under the Star brand in calendar 2021.
Chapek said that he will offer another update on Disney Plus on the company’s investor day on Dec. 10.