Disney expected its flagship streaming service to be popular. Estimated to hit between 60 and 90 million global subscribers by 2024, the service was popular enough at launch to cause technical glitches for would-be viewers and subscribers. Up-to-date estimates hold that roughly 10 million people have subscribed to the service since launch, in part assisted by Verizon’s one-year free giveaway to new customers of select services.
The service launched with nearly 500 films and 7,500 TV episodes. Its U.S., Canada, and The Netherlands launches were set for Nov. 12th, with successive launches in Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico on Nov. 19th. It is expected to launch in most major global markets within its first two years.
In addition to a deep catalog of existing properties, the service will offer original series like the well-received Star Wars series The Mandalorian, the first live-action series in the Star Wars universe; The World According to Jeff Goldblum, a docuseries from National Geographic; and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. In the first year, Disney+ promises a roll out of 35 originals.
It was a gamble to launch Disney+, but it appears the gamble is paying off.
The Content Test
The initial idea that sparked Disney+ came in an August 4th, 2015 conference call. Iger had noted recent hits the company’s pay-TV business had taken, with ESPN losing 7 million subscribers in 2 years. By the next summer, Disney invested $1 billion in the MLB BAMTech streaming tech business. Two years from that initial acknowledgement Disney announced it would pull its films from Netflix for the launch of a forthcoming Disney+ streaming service, alongside a sports-centric streaming service, ESPN+.
The biggest priority for the forthcoming service was to secure a large enough content library to be an enticing pull for consumers. Agnes Chu, Disney’s senior vp content, noted the efforts that went into readying the content for launch:
“The first thing I did was make sure that the library was going to be ready for our launch. It was everything from going into our vault and physically looking at things that had not yet been restored to [paging through] binders of pieces of paper with legal deals.”
Disney recognized early on that their deep library of content would be the biggest selling point. With so many services in competition, perhaps the two biggest factors for customer retention are (1) available content and (2) price–two criteria that were on the forefront of Disney’s decisions for the new service.
While such a strong launch exceeded industry expectations, some of the signups are within the free trial period and may not ‘stick’. Simultaneously, long-term retention from the Verizon deal can only be estimated at this point.
At this point, what the numbers do suggest is that Disney+ may potentially exceed its initial 5-year estimate. At the very least, the service is already a success–something investors are surely happy about.