Less than 14 months after launching in North America and the Netherlands on November 12, 2019, Disney+ has already achieved what it set out to do in 2024, that is reach 90 million subscribers. As of January 2, 2021, the Netflix competitor based in Burbank, California had reached 95 million paid subscribers, the company announced in its latest earnings report. To put that number in context, it took Netflix six to nine 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 204 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," said Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company. Between Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, Disney had 146 million paid streaming subscribers at the end of last quarter. contributing to a 73-percent increase in direct-to-consumer revenue.