Disney Plus blows past expectations for its first year with 73.7 million subscribers

The Mandalorian and the Child on Disney+’s “The Mandalorian.”


It’s been exactly a year since Disney+ launched, and the streaming service has far outperformed expectations.

Disney announced Thursday that its platform surpassed 73.7 million subscribers. It’s remarkable growth considering Disney’s goal, at its launch, was to reach 60 million to 90 million subscriptions by 2024.

Just a year in, and Disney+ is quickly creeping up on Netflix, which reported more than 195 million subscribers in its most recent quarter. Disney also joined the streaming wars at roughly the same time as Apple and a few months before Comcast‘s NBCUniversal. Apple has yet to release subscription numbers for Apple TV+. NBCUniversal’s Peacock reported nearly 22 million sign-ups as of October, up 12 million from its July report.

It’s worth noting that some of those subscribers arrived at the service through bundles or one-time promotions, but Disney doesn’t break out those numbers. Still, subscribers flocked to Disney right off the bat: 10 million people signed up within the first day. In its first operating quarter, the service secured 26.5 million subscribers.

And it only shot up from there, as the Covid-19 pandemic kept viewers indoors — Disney+ jumped from 33.5 million subscribers in its second quarter to 57.5 million by its third quarter.

The company had its doubters: Some analysts predicted prelaunch that the service wouldn’t reach even 20 million subscribers by the end of 2020. But analysts widely and quickly changed their tune since the service’s launch.

Morgan Stanley on Thursday morning raised its streaming subscription estimates to 230 million by the end of 2025, and MoffettNathanson analysts in October upped their forecast to nearly 160 million subs worldwide by 2024.

“We expect Disney to further lean into streaming, implying higher spend and more original content that moves more quickly to its DTC platforms,” Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne said in a note to investors Thursday.

The strong subscriber numbers come as Disney pushes heavily into its streaming service. The company in October announced that it was restructuring its media and entertainment divisions, centralizing its media businesses into a single organization that will be responsible for content distribution, ad sales and Disney+.

“We are tilting the scale pretty dramatically [toward streaming],” Disney CEO Bob Chapek told CNBC at the time.

Disney’s next step? Proving to investors that it can retain subscribers as well as it can bring them in.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.

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