In brief: Disney+ is a resounding success for the Walt Disney Company, who certainly didn't expect to see it grow to 50 million users in less than a year, let alone in just five months. The company now expects the international rollout to bring another large wave of new signups, and at this point there's nothing to suggest that won't be the case.
The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on the way we use the Internet, and streaming services have seen a significant uptick in both new signups and the hours spent by existing subscribers. Through a combination of quick international expansion, consumers accelerating their cord-cutting, and a robust content library, services like Disney+ are thriving and then some.
When Disney+ launched in November 2019, The Walt Disney Company told investors it was expecting to see it reach between 60 and 90 million subscribers by the end of 2024, at which point it would become profitable. But judging by today's announcement that it has already attracted more than 50 million users, it looks like it has a strong chance of reaching that milestone four years early.
The service pulled in 10 million subscribers on launch day, and after juggling technical issues related to its app architecture, it has seen steady growth to this day. For reference, Disney+ managed to reach 28.6 million subscribers by February, with half of those users gained from direct signups and the rest from Apple, Roku, and a Verizon deal. These trends have stayed more or less the same until now.
As the coronavirus forced entire regions into lockdown, Disney+ saw a 212 percent spike in new signups, which is significantly more than alternatives like Hulu, Netflix, not to mention Apple's TV+, which has had a disappointing growth trajectory that may have pushed Apple to make a special deal with Amazon.
Besides nailing the content and the monthly cost, a crucial ingredient to the impressive growth of Disney+ has been its quick international rollout. Over the last few weeks, the service went live in the UK, Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Ireland and India. More than 8 million Indians subscribed within the first week.
Overall, Disney+ has surpassed alternatives like Hulu and is starting to look like a real challenger to Netflix, which has amassed more than 167 million subscribers and built a larger international presence. For comparison, Netflix launched its streaming service in 2007 and reached the 50 millions subscribers milestone in 2014. It only took Disney+ five months to do get to the same result, which is why investors sent shares up 4 percent as of writing.
Kevin Mayer, who is the Chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, said that "we’re truly humbled that Disney+ is resonating with millions around the globe, and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion throughout Western Europe and into Japan and all of Latin America later this year. Great storytelling inspires and uplifts, and we are in the fortunate position of being able to deliver a vast array of great entertainment rooted in joy and optimism on Disney+."
In related news, those of you who are looking for something to do during the lockdown and are fond of Disney rides, you can check out the virtual experience.