Disney CEO Bob Chapek told investors Wednesday that the company is increasing its multibillion-dollar spending on content for Disney Plus as it adds more local and regional content for worldwide audiences.
Last December, Disney projected it would spend between $8 billion-$9 billion on content for its premiere streaming service in its fiscal year 2024, and Chapek said that amount would now rise.
“As you know, we announced at our last Investor Day that we expect our total content expense to be between $8 and $9 billion in fiscal 2024, and we will now be increasing that investment further, with the primary driver being more local and regional content,” Chapek said on Disney’s fiscal Q4 2021 call.
The Disney chief was eager to put a forward spin on Disney Plus, after the media conglomerate gained just 2.1 million subscribers for its flagship service in the September 2021 quarter — well under Wall Street forecasts and the slowest growth since it launched two years ago.
Currently, Chapek said, there are more than 340 local titles in various stages of development to be released on Disney Plus over the next few years, and he laid out plans to more than double the number of countries where Disney Plus is available by the company’s 2023 fiscal year. The emphasis on local and regional content is key as Chapek vowed that Disney Plus would be available in over 120 countries by next year, compared with roughly 60 countries now.
“The service is now available throughout Japan, and we’re thrilled to be launching it this Friday on Disney Plus Day in South Korea and Taiwan and in Hong Kong on Nov. 16,” Chapek said. “In just two short years, we are now in over 60 countries and more than 20 languages, and next year we plan to bring Disney Plus to consumers in 50-plus additional countries, including in Central, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and South Africa. Our goal is to more than double the number of countries that we’re currently in to over 160 by fiscal year 2023.”
As Disney Plus prepares to celebrate its second anniversary on Friday, Chapek said, the COVID pandemic delays have disrupted the planned rate of series and film premieres until the second half of 2022, when the “dam will break” on the highly anticipated titles revealed at the December 2020 investor day.
“In total, we are nearly doubling the amount of original content from the marquee brands Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic coming to Disney Plus in fiscal year 2022, with the majority of our highly anticipated titles arriving July through September. This represents the beginning of the surge of new content shared last December at our Investor Conference 2.0,” Chapek said.
Chapek highlighted content including Marvel’s “Hawkeye,” Star Wars’ “The Book of Boba Fett,” Beatles docuseries “Get Back” and Disney’s “Encanto” as high-profile releases for the end of 2021.
Disney CFO Christine McCarthy warned that costs on the film side are going to spike in this current quarter by at least $300 million because the studio will release nine titles through the end of the year, compared with only two in the year-ago quarter. She cited the “the prolonged recovery we’re seeing in theatrical coupled with higher programming and marketing costs.”