Catching Netflix, which then had over 165 million subscribers, was an almost unthinkable prospect for Disney on November 12, 2019. But just 31 months after it launched Disney Plus, surpassing Netflix in global scale is no longer a matter of if, but when.
And "when" is probably later this year.
Disney added 9.2 million streaming subscribers in its fiscal second quarter ending April 2, upping its total direct-to-consumer base to 205.6 million customers across its Disney Plus, Disney Plus Hotstar, Hulu and ESPN Plus brands.
Disney added 7.9 million subscribers alone across its Disney Plus and India-situated Disney Plus Hotstar brands, and it now has 137.7 million customers under the Disney Plus brand. By fiscal 2024, it expects that number to grow to between 230-260 million. (Hulu added around 300,000 customers during the quarter, while ESPN Plus grew by about 1 million subs.)
Revenue growth remained strong for Disney, rising 23% to $19.2 billion. (You can read a full summary of Disney's fiscal Q2 report here.)
After enduring its first quarterly subscriber drop in over a decade, Netflix finished the first three months of 2022 with 221.6 million customers. It expects to lose around 2 million more in the second quarter. Revenue growth, which flew well above 20% each quarter amid the pandemic, slid below 10%.
To return to growth, Netflix is making aggressive investments in regions like India, the global market with perhaps the best potential for developing future broadband and streaming users. But Disney Plus Hotstar finished 2021 with 50 million users in the region, dwarfing Netflix's current local stature.
And with Disney Plus set to deploy in around 53 new international markets, and unfurl a local international production slate of more than 500 original titles, its runway seems immeasurably longer than Netflix's at the moment.
With Disney charging only a fraction globally of what Netflix does, revenue varies widely. But oranges and apples comparisons of respective business models aside, the raw subscriber numbers carry huge sway in places like Wall Street. This horserace matters. ■
Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!
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