Disney Plus Now at 86.8 Million Subscribers

The Child in Disney Plus's 'The Mandalorian'
The Child in Disney Plus's 'The Mandalorian' (Image credit: Disney)

Disney Plus now has 86.8 million subscribers, announced The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek Thursday during the company's investor day.

Across all of its streaming services Disney has 137 million subscribers as of December 2, with Hulu at 38.8 million and ESPN Plus at 11.5 million, according to Rebecca Campbell,  chairman of International Operations and Direct to Consumers. (About 30% of Disney Plus subscribers come from Hotstar in India.)

Also Read: Disney Plus Plans $1 Price Increase to $7.99

That’s well above the goals set when Disney laid out its  plans to pivot to direct-to-consumer streaming in 2019.

“The tremendous success we’ve achieved across our unique portfolio of streaming services, with more than 137 million subscriptions worldwide, has bolstered our confidence in our acceleration toward a DTC-first business model,” Chapek said. “With our amazing creative teams and our ever-growing collection of the high-quality branded entertainment that consumers want, we believe we are incredibly well positioned to achieve our long-term goals.”

Disney also said Disney Plus and ESPN Plus will be coming to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 platform early next year. Hulu is already available on X1.

The company also said that as the first year of its arrangement with Verizon ended that gave subscribers to Disney Plus, Verizon subscribers will will be offered access to the Disney streaming bundle at a reduced price of $12.99.

New Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Series Ahead

Chapek said the company will be making an array of Disney Plus Originals so that the service would be launching something new each month. There will be 10 new Marvel series, 10 new Star Wars series, 15 series from Disney, Disney Animation and Pixar and 15 features from Disney, Disney Animation and Pixar.

The upcoming film Raya and The Last Dragon, originally planned as a theatrical release, will be available to Disney Plus subscribers with Premier Plus at the same time it goes into theaters.

Overall, the company said it aims to add more than 100 new titles a year to Disney Plus. It also outlined aggressive programming plans for its Hulu and ESPN Plus services.

Bob Chapek at Disney's 2020 investor day

Disney CEO Bob Chapek at the company's 2020 investor day (Image credit: Disney)

Disney also detailed its rollout plan for Star and Star Plus, its international streaming services. 

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro announced that the network has signed a new 10 year deal with the SEC. The conference’s key Saturday afternoon football games will move from CBS to ABC, with some primetime games also airing on ABC, as well as the conference’s annual championship game.

Other SEC football games will appear on ESPN Plus. 

As part of the deal, ESPN becomes the exclusive rights holder for all SEC sports. 

ESPN also announced that it will have a third season of Peyton’s Places, featuring Peyton Manning. Manning’s brother, Eli, will also have a show on ESPN Plus about college football. ESPN Plus will also be getting its own exclusive morning show plus a program headlined by the network’s Stephen A. Smith called Stephen A’s World.

Subscribers to Hulu will be able to buy and access ESPN Plus through the Hulu interface.

Hulu will be expanding its production of exclusive FX on Hulu movies from movie studios 20th Century and Searchlight Pictures.

Hulu will also be expanding its relationship with ABC News.

John Landgraf, CEO of FX said FX will be creating 30 original programs each year. 

Three projects in FX’s pipeline are a TV series based on the Alien film series set on earth, with producer Noah Hawley working with Ridley Scott; The Stones, telling the band’s story from the 60s through 1972 with Nick Hornsby, and a remake of Shogun.

The presentation features a long list of projects heading to Disney Plus from the company's studios

From Lucasfilm, there are more Star Wars films including, Obi-Wan Kenobi, starring Ewan McGregor with Hayden Christensen returning as Darth Vader, Mandalorian spinoffs Rangers of the New Republic and Ahsoka, and Andor, a spinoff of the film Rogue One.

Additional new Lucasfilm titles announced for Disney Plus include Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Star Wars: Visions, Lando, The Acolyte, and A Droid Story. The studio is also revisiting Willow in a new series with Warwick Davis returning in the title role.

Disney Plus will have original series based on movies from Disney Television Studios with The Mighty Ducks Game Changers starring Emilio Estevez with Lauren Graham as a hockey mom, Turner & Hooch, and a Beauty and the Beast prequel with Luke Evans and Josh Gad as Gaston and LaFou. Another series is based on The Mysterious Benedict Society book series. 

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Production is cooking up a passel of original movies for Disney Plus including Hocus Pocus 2, reboots of Three Men and a Baby with Zac Efron and Cheaper by the Dozen with Kenya Barris and Gabrielle Union, and a new Sister Act film starring Whoopi Goldberg with Tyler Perry producing. Also in the hopper are Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers, starring John Mulaney and Andy Samberg; Pinocchio, starring Tom Hanks; Peter Pan & Wendy starring Jude Law as Captain Hook and Disenchanted, with Amy Adams returning as Giselle.

New live action biographical films set for the service include Greek Freak, about NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as projects about Keanon Lowe and Chris Paul. In development are new animated takes on favorite 20th Century Studios’ titles Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild and Night at the Museum.

Walt Disney Animation is working on a series based on Baymax, Zootopia, Tiana and Moana, as well as Iwaju, produced with the African comic book company Kugali. 

Marvel Studios said its cinematic universe will be extending into Disney Plus, revealing three new series: Secret Invasion with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Ironheart and Armor Wars, with Don Cheadle as War Machine. 

National Geographic is producing documentary film Cousteau about the legendary underwater explorer, which will be exclusive to Disney Plus.

Nat Geo’s Genius anthology series will become exclusive to Disney Plus with the fourth installment, which will be about Martin Luther King. 

James Cameron is making a National Geographic Explorer special, The Secrets of the Whales, which will be narrated by Sigourney Weaver, also exclusively for Disney Plus.

NatGeo also has Disney Plus series headlined by big stars, with Chris Hemsworth trying to conquer aging in Limitless and Will Smith exploring strange corners of the planet in Welcome to Earth

Internationally, Disney will be building on its Disney Plus Hotstar service in India and Indonesia. Star will be included as part of Disney Plus in some international markets and launch as a separate streaming service known as Star Plus in Latin America. Star will feature TV and movie content from Disney studios and also have local programming to build viewer engagement.

Star will launch in Europe on Feb. 23 as part of Disney. The Star logo will be featured on the Disney Plus homepage, like Marvel, Pixar and National Geographic.

In Latin America, Star Plus will have entertainment content plus a roster of live sporting events.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.