Disney+ has unsurprisingly blown subscriber expectations out of the water, and Disney executives made clear during the company’s earnings call this week they plan to grow those figures by throwing money at more content for the platform. But if Disney brings more premium titles to the service as it did with Mulan, we may be expected to pay for it.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek acknowledged in the company’s earnings report released Thursday that experiences and parks continued to be impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has forced reduced capacity restrictions and safety protocols in places where Disney properties are even permitted to open. (Heads of Disney seemed particularly pissed that its parks remain closed in California, where covid-19 cases are back on the rise—which, read the room, folks.) But its streaming service Disney+ has unsurprisingly been making a killing, topping 73 million paying subscribers as of early October.
“The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company, and on this anniversary of the launch of Disney+ we’re pleased to report that, as of the end of the fourth quarter, the service had more than 73 million paid subscribers—far surpassing our expectations in just its first year,” Chapek said in a statement.
During its earnings call, Disney executives revealed that the company now has 120 million paid subscribers worldwide across its various streaming properties, including those from ESPN and Hulu. And that number will likely continue to balloon, particularly as Disney+ eyes additional international markets and adds more exclusive titles to its service.
The company said it plans to continue investing in new Disney+ content, something that executives said is a major draw for adding new subscribers. But it’s probably safe to expect that at least with respect to bigger titles, like those that were previously slated for theatrical release, we’ll have to pay for it. Disney executives said they were very happy with the results of the company’s big premium-video-on-demand experiment with Mulan—sans ensuing controversy, which executives were not pleased with—indicating there’s a good chance we could see more $30 Disney movies arrive on the platform if theater closures continue.
Now, the company did not speak directly to any Premier Access titles in the pipeline, and Disney has in the past framed Mulan’s release as a PVOD title as a one-off experiment. But after the movie’s release, Sensor Tower data estimated that Mulan drove up installs of the Disney+ app by 68% when compared to a three-day window from the week prior.
Given that an end to the pandemic is at present a far-off prospect, and given the number of titles in Disney’s portfolio slated for release next year, it’s hard to imagine Disney won’t seize on another opportunity to charge us some unholy sum to watch a newer title from the safety of our own homes. I mean, is Disney really going to delay the Black Widow theatrical release indefinitely? Trolls World Tour made $95 million in its first three weeks as a PVOD release. Trolls World Tour, for god’s sake!
And why wouldn’t Disney charge us out the ears to stream its new movies? After all, we’ve shown we’re willing to pay up for them.