Disney+ has continued to defy expectations with the SVoD service adding 11.8 million subscribers in the last quarter of 2021, taking the total to 129.8 million globally.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek predicted the service will have 230 million to 260 million subscribers by 2024.
Overall, the company’s revenues increased by 34 % year-on-year to USD 21.8 billion (EUR 19.08 billion) for the quarter, while profits rose to USD 1.1 billion.
“This marks the final year of the Walt Disney Company’s first century, and performance like this coupled with our unmatched collection of assets and platforms, creative capabilities, and unique place in the culture give me great confidence we will continue to define entertainment for the next 100 years,” Chapek said.
However, even as Disney+ subscribers jumped, executives warned that revenue from cinema releases has yet to recover from the pandemic – despite the recent success of Spider-Man: No Way Home (which is a joint production with Sony).
Meanwhile, Disney’s US theme parks hit record highs in the final quarter of 2021 as a strong desire for holidaying is born from global lockdowns.
Commenting on the results, Dave Castell, General Manager of Inventory Partnerships, EMEA, The Trade Desk, said: “Reorganising a multi-billion dollar, 98 year old global company around a brand new streaming venture – barely two years old – was no mean feat, but Disney+ has certainly hit the ground running. The Walt Disney company’s strong Q1 results represent the commercial successes of the whole business from parks through to products, but Disney’s streaming offer has really got our industry talking. From initially aiming for 60 million subscribers in its first five years, Disney reached that target in 12 months and revised it up to 260 million. New releases like Encanto have clearly captured audiences’ imaginations and fuelled sign-ups around the world.
“But despite a clear hunger for new, premium quality content, consumers are tiring of paying through the nose for it. The Trade Desk’s own research showed that budget-conscious consumers are increasingly turning to free platforms. In fact, British viewers are almost twice as likely to try a new show on a free platform funded by ads, than on a service with a monthly fee. Netflix’s slow subscriber growth reported last month stands testament to that. In the face of a cost-of-living crisis in the UK and other economic stressors resting on consumers overseas, Disney+ will need to think carefully about its business model in 2022 to maintain the rapid growth it’s seen so far.”
Dominic Sunnebo of Global Insight Director, Kantar, Worldpanel Division commented: “Disney had a fantastic Q4, with continued strong growth, even in mature markets like the US and Great Britain. In the US, all Disney services, including Hulu and ESPN+ outperformed the wider market. A strong content slate helped drive up customer acquisition, with The Mandalorian, Hawk Eye and Beatles: Get Back, all hitting the mark with consumers. Hawk Eye was in the top five most recommended titles across the US, Great Britain, and Germany in Q4, and helped Disney to achieve its highest ever level of customer advocacy in multiple markets.
“Disney churn remained low in the quarter and forward-looking planned cancellations trended downwards in most markets. Disney’s streaming business remains fundamentally sound, with the only major watch out being the rapid growth of free ad supported streaming services, for now concentrated in the US, but also growing fast in Europe -there are tentative signs of pressure on share of screentime from the increasing number of free, ad-supported services in this space.”