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Disney+'s First Anniversary | A Year of Reflection

Disney+'s First Anniversary | A Year of Reflection

The Walt Disney Company’s once fledgling of a subscription service is now one of the world’s biggest, only a year into operation.

The Walt Disney Company’s once fledgling of a subscription service is now one of the world’s biggest, only a year into operation.

Credit | The Walt Disney Company

Disney+, the surprise streaming service from the Walt Disney Company, which launched one year ago today, has grown to top 73 million subscribers.

That’s according to the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report, which amongst other financial records, reveals subscriber counts. 

Previously, for the prior third-quarter (records from August 3rd), the company said Disney+ had 60.5 million subscribers, which shows a very impressive 12 million net addition in about two months.

This release amongst other things included Hulu and ESPN+ numbers, with Hulu at 36.6 million subscribers, and ESPN tripling to 10.3 million subscribers.

Disney+ was the shining star of the report however, pushing Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer segment growing 41% to $4.9 billion for the quarter. 

Late last year, Disney’s previous CEO, Bob Iger called Disney+, at the time either non-existent or almost existent, “a bet on the future of this business.”

I’d definitely agree with Mr. Iger, except for with his use of the future. 

Just a year into the service’s existence, Disney+ has 74 million subscribers, which puts it around number five globally for subscribers, either matched with, or behind Amazon’s Prime Video.

Disney+’s anniversary also marks a long year of streaming, cramming a long-term subscriber goal into nine months, and hosting content that spawned 19 Emmys nominations. Disney+ ended up being the most Googled term in 2019, and there was also Baby Yoda, but I don’t think I’ll have to remind you about that.

More importantly however, Disney+ has been incredibly useful for the company as a whole, during one of, if not the worst year, in its history.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit virtually every business out there, but Disney was hit disproportionally, even as a $250 billion machine.

Disney Parks and Resorts were, (and still partially are), closed for months on end, movies and TV productions have been delayed or cancelled, and tens of thousands have been laid off from Disney.

As the rest of the Walt Disney Company decayed from the bases up, Disney+ shined as a pillar holding the company up.


Four months into Disney+’s already successful operation, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Billions quarantined globally turned to online sources to replace their either expensive or physical resources, quickly boosting tech companies and tech products.

That’s where Disney+ was pushed to the “absolute forefront of the company,” according to Jeffrey Cole of the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.

While people, and the company, expected goals prepared from Disney to be fulfilled a little earlier, maybe 2-3 years before expected, nobody expected the results that Disney had.

Before Disney+ even launched, an estimated 10 million had subscribed.

By May, the number was five times as high: 50 million.

On Disney+’s first anniversary, the number was almost 75 million.

Some analysts expected Disney+ to reach 50 million subscribers in 5 years. It took six months.

“It’s become the central part of Disney; it (reaching subscriber counts) happened in months because of the pandemic,” Core told CNN.

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This insane growth also managed to push the almost 100 year old company to completely restructure their decades old media and entertainment businesses to focus on streaming, to “further accelerate” growth and evelopment.

While Disney was planning on devoting serious man and financial power into Disney+, the pandemic pushed the company to do much more, much faster. 

Luckily for the company however, it turned out well. Disney investor and partner at hedge fund Gullane Capital Partners, Trip Miller, said “Disney+ has been the one shining star in the Disney empire in 2020. The advent of the Disney+ platform could not have come at a better time.”

Looking to infinity and beyond

Even with Disney+’s massive success, Disney’s DTC business has a long way to go to convince Disney to invest more.

Disney+ alone could lose Disney upwards of $2 billion this year, and even more next year.

The massive amount of investment into creating content and expanding services is not light on parent companies.

With Disney+’s fast growth however, this can serve as a silver bullet.

Disney can invest more money, which will a) burn through resources even faster, but also b) expand the already super fast growing service with equally fast growing content.

Disney’s storytelling prowess and superior development allows the company to produce hits, and future hits, such as the Mandalorian and WandaVision, which should keep going strong throughout the next decade.

The launch of Mulan for $30 on Disney+ can tie in with Disney’s very profitable cinema business, and connections to the parks, such as with Secrets of the Animal Kingdom, can wrap Disney Parks into the mix as well.

Everything can go Disney+

All of Disney’s businesses can connect with their fast growing technological divisions, which help drive growth and profitability.

With Disney’s success now, the company will almost guaranteed push further towards this digital future, and with their approach now, it’ll help the century old company beat back against the changing world.

Disney+ provides the perfect way for an old, semi-slow growth business, like Disney to inject some fresh ideas and cultures into the company, which would help not only financials and the company, but also millions across the world, with an estimated 100-200 million subscribers in just a few years.



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