Through May the Fourth, Disney Plus’ subscriber base continued to widen, after it crossed the 50 million milestone in early April.
Disney plus subscriber base grew to 54.5 million members as of Monday, coinciding with the May the Fourth Star Wars Day and just shy of six months after launch, Disney said Tuesday, during a discussion of its financial performance in the first part of the year. The planned international rollout this year of Disney-owned Hulu may be delayed, however, Disney said. But Disney Plus is scheduled to launch in Japan in June; in Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and the Nordic countries in September; and in Latin America toward the end of the year.
Disney initially predicted its streaming service would reach between 60 million and 90 million subscribers after about five years. Now Disney Plus is within spitting distance of that range just six months after launching, the company said Tuesday. By comparison, Netflix, the biggest subscription video service in the world, has more than 182 million global subscribers.
Hulu grew to 32.1 million paid subscribers in the US in the latest period, up 1.7 million since the end of last year. But a planned international expansion for Hulu may be delayed, the company said.
“Given the cash situation and the uncertainty around our overall business, we’ve got no plans immediately to make any investment in that business internationally,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said during the financial discussion, referring to Hulu. But that was a short-term outlook only.
As coronavirus containment measures have shuttered cinemas and forced families to entertain themselves at home more than ever, Disney has been tweaking Disney Plus’ role, making it a bigger and earlier part of its big-screen films’ release cycles.
For one, Disney has been accelerating how quickly it streams previously released films, with Frozen 2, Pixar’s Onward and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker all hitting the service months early. But Disney is also starting to move films off its theatrical release slate to go straight to Disney Plus instead. Up until Tuesday, only one movie was skipping theaters: Artemis Fowl, a sci-fi fantasy based on a popular series of young-adult books, will stream June 12.
Disney Plus is perhaps the most high-profile example of traditional Hollywood throwing its fortunes in with streaming, competing against the likes of Netflix, Amazon and a new wave of rivals like Apple TV Plus, HBO Max and Peacock. With billions of dollars of investment at play, their competitive wins and losses will shape the future of television — and affect how much you need to pay to watch your favorite content.
Disney Plus launched Nov. 12 in the US, Canada and the Netherlands and has since widened to Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe. It’s the entertainment giant’s online hub to stream almost everything it produces, including Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and all the family-friendly movies and animation from Disney itself, plus acquired favorites like The Simpsons.