Five months after its launch, Disney Plus has quite a good set of milestones. With more than 50 million subscribers, of which 28.6 million was reached in early February mainly in its domestic market of US and Canada, and a bold expansion across the globe, the streaming service has launched in eight European countries and in the huge Indian market between late March and earlier this month.
An important figure for investors humor when it comes to SVOD, this amount of subscribers places Disney Plus in a competitive position in the streaming wars. To compare, while Netflix announced 182.7 million subscribers around the world as of the end of March, Hulu, Disney’s other streaming service that only operates in the US, has 30 million.
“We’re truly humbled that Disney Plus is resonating with millions around the globe, and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion throughout Western Europe and into Japan and all of Latin America later this year,” Kevin Mayer, Disney’s head of direct-to-consumer, said in a press release. “Great storytelling inspires and uplifts, and we are in the fortunate position of being able to deliver a vast array of great entertainment rooted in joy and optimism on Disney Plus.”
While the platform remains a big hit in its hometown – Disney+ was the most downloaded app in the US in Q4 2019 – the company’s CFO Christine McCarthy noted during the February earnings call that Disney actually expects the majority of its growth to come from international subscribers. Available in India, expanding in Europe, and moving forward to soon launch in the wide-market of Latin America – Disney appears to be moving at a fast pace to reach this goal
The launch in Europe
With flags planted over UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland by March 24, Disney Plus delayed two weeks more to release in France, at the request of the country’s government that was fearing the platform could overload France’s internet networks during the lockdown.
“France and The Walt Disney Company have enjoyed a special and successful relationship for decades,” said Kevin Mayer according to Variety. “While we were happy to honor the request of the local government to delay our initial launch plans, we are delighted to now be able to bring Disney Plus to French fans and families,” the executive stated adding that “Disney Plus will offer some much-needed joy during these unprecedented and challenging times.” The platform said it would feature a lower overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25% and reduced video quality for the time being.
Coming next, Disney’s streaming service will seek its European roll-out this summer in Belgium, the Nordic countries, and Portugal. As for prices, in most of the continent’s countries, the service costs 6.99€ per month and 69.99€ in the annual rate.
The approach in India
Disney Plus strategy in Asia’s largest open entertainment market has come with extra help: the streaming platform was available in India as of April 3rd, through Hotstar, a video streaming owned by Disney as part of last year’s Fox acquisition.
The most popular on-demand video service in India, Hotstar now rebrands as Disney+ Hotstar, offering new subscribers a range of content that goes from Disney Originals, live sporting events, TV channels, and thousands of movies and shows, as reported by TechCrunch.
By charging users the most affordable plan in any of the other markets where it is already available – 1,499 Indian rupees (around $19.5) for a year – and coming along with the existing Hotstar service; India already accounts for about 8 million of the service’s 50 million global subscribers. Disney Plus has also launched a cheaper yearly subscription in the country, priced at Rs 399 (around $5.3), offering subscribers access to movies, shows, and live sporting events, but excluding Disney Originals.
“The arrival of Disney+ in India is another case study in the globalization of entertainment in the digital era. For decades, the biggest companies in the world have expanded their reach into different markets. But it’s new, and actually quite profound, that everyone on earth receives the very same version of such a specific cultural product,” Matthew Ball, former head of strategic planning for Amazon Studios, told TechCrunch at the occasion of the debut.
What is at stake with the pandemic
With streaming consumption on the rise, all the while theaters remain closed to stop the spread of the pandemic, Disney Plus has anticipated some of the additions in its library, including “Frozen 2” and “Artemis Fowl”, that was set to have a traditional debut on theaters on May 29. The movie will now be available exclusively on the streaming platform as of June 12.
“There are some [films already in production] we’ve decided to put on Disney+. We already announced one, Artemis Fowl, that would have been released in theaters. Others we’ve simply delayed. In some cases, we’ve moved things onto Disney+ faster than we could have,” said the executive chairman and former CEO Bob Iger to Dow Jone’s magazine Barron’s in an interview. “Frozen 2 was one of them, but Onward would be the biggest example. It was in theaters when this happened. We moved to a pay-per-view period for a couple of weeks where people could buy and own it.”
It’s early to say for sure what will be Disney Plus strategy in Latin America. However, by approaching a large emerging market like India with such an aggressive price, and by sparing no effort to bring new shows earlier to its platform amid the pandemic – the company might also be shedding a light on what the service’s debut will look like, later this year.
As for the catalog, TechRadar examined the differences in content among Disney Plus regions and found out that, unlike Netflix’s early times of international debut, there aren’t vast enough differences between the platform library in a country or another – which means that those who are anxiously waiting for the service to launch can likely rely on the global content.