As Disney+ approaches its second birthday in November, the Walt Disney Company's streaming offering continues to exceed expectations. After reaching its 90 million subscriber goal three years ahead of schedule at the end of 2020, the Netflix competitor based in Burbank, California added another 20 million subscribers in the first six months of 2021. According to the company's latest earnings release, Disney+ had 116 million subscribers on July 3, doubling its subscriber base over the course of twelve months. To put that number in context, it took Netflix seven to ten years (depending on when you start counting) to reach as many subscribers for its streaming service, which is currently the number 1 in the world with 209 million subscribers.
Upon the launch of its highly anticipated streaming service in November 2019, Disney had forecast to reach between 60 and 90 million subscribers in 2024, an estimate that looks highly conservative, if not comically low from today's point of view. In fairness, it needs to be said that the pandemic probably played a role in Disney reaching its goal so far ahead of schedule. Like Netflix, Disney+ likely profited from stay-at-home orders and limited leisure activities in the face of COVID-19.
As the pandemic struck in early 2020, with movie theaters and theme parks closed and cruise ship sailings suspended, Disney saw itself forced to double-down on its direct-to-consumer business, with Disney+ at the heart of that strategic shift. “We believe the strategic actions we’re taking to transform our Company will fuel our growth and enhance shareholder value, as demonstrated by the incredible strides we’ve made in our DTC business," Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company said earlier this year. Between Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, Disney had 174 million paid streaming subscribers at the end of last quarter. contributing to a 57-percent increase in direct-to-consumer revenue.