It was a major investment for the studio so was the risk worth all the hype?
Unless you have not been online in the past month, nor watched any television in the past couple of weeks you may have missed the fact that a company called Disney has debuted this service thing where you can watch their movies and programs online. Turns out the company has a new product, and its promotions for it are conservatively measure to be appearing everywhere.
It is understandable the monolithic studio would be promoting this new service considering all that is at stake. It is a major move into the streaming sector, and Disney spent heavily to acquire 20th Century Fox in order to position itself specifically for this rollout. That studio’s catalogue of films and television shows boosted the library that could be offered to customers, making the brand an even more tempting option.
So just how successful has the House of Mouse been in its latest endeavor? Is it even possible after two weeks to declare if this is a worthwhile venture for the studio? Well to this point it appears to be a major success, but some of the numbers do come with qualifiers. To its credit Disney was not content to merely spill out an already impressive stable of films from the past couple of decades, instead making a two-pronged effort to draw viewers.
One has been opening up almost all of its vaults and providing long-standing titles from its past. Starting from the animated short that began everything, ‘’Steamboat Willie’’, there is all manner of titles to be found from the past. Motion pictures from the 1950s and 1960s can be found, as well as older shows and made-for-TV titles from the Disney television series.
In addition there is already a wide array of original content premiering. The Star Wars story ‘’The Mandalorian’’ has received rave reviews. There is a live-action version of ‘’Lady And The Tramp’’, and Anna Kendrick stars in an original Christmas title, ‘’Noelle’’. Jeff Goldblum has his own reality series, as does Kristen Bell from ‘’Frozen’’. Another addition is a documentary series on the Imagineers who created the theme parks. These will be joined by future products from the already expansive Marvel stable of titles which will be Disney+ exclusives.
But has this paid off for the studio? Technically, No. More accurately, not yet. The anticipation has been that the service itself will not see profitability until sometime in 2024, however that projection may become revised, with the date moving up. There had been projections that the streaming service would achieve a figure of 10 million subscribers by Spring-Summer of next year. That tally has been reached after its first week. Disney stock prices reached a record high this week as a result of another study by research company Apptopia determines that there had been 15.5 million downloads of the new service.
While greatly accelerating the timeline for the company this also has to be measured with some mitigating details. Disney has offered up its new service with a free 7-day trial. Also, Verizon cellular subscribers have been granted a free year of service to Disney+, so these measurable numbers are a bit fluid, albeit still impressive. The key will be in the area of engagement, and that appears to be where the best news for the studio is found.
Apptopia reports that it is measuring over 25 million viewing sessions daily on the app, which is an indication of strong participation among the customers. It points to a customer base that appears to be more than just curious about a new product. These returns mean that the hoped-for target of 60 million-90million subscribers by that 2024 date should be exceeded. Most notable is that the streaming service is not even rolled out in full internationally, with countries scheduled to be added through the coming Spring.
What has been interesting, and a possible cautionary indicator is that other streaming services have not shown a negative impact by Disney’s arrival, save for possibly one. Apptopia has measured the apps for established streamers Netflix, Amazon, and HBO and it sees little to no drop off in the downloads or session plays for those apps. However, some stock analysts have said they see some issues with Hulu.
Pricing for the app is said to be very low, leading to a tepid revenue performance, and that new subscribers have been unimpressive in the last quarter. This is significant as Hulu — following the Fox acquisition –n is now a Disney-run entity, and it is a major driver of the Disney+ subscriber push. One selling point is the bundled Disney+/Hulu/ESPN+ package with reasonable pricing. In truth though the energy behind the Disney+ debut should be regarded as something likely to elevate Hulu.
The real measure of success will be by the next holiday season when year-over-year comparisons will be made. This will be more telling once other streaming services from Warners-HBO, as well as NBC-Universal debut next year.