Disney+ outshines Netflix with 11.8M new subscribers in Q1 and strong forecast

Disney+ added 11.8 million new subscribers last quarter to reach 129.8 million subscribers, Disney announced as part of its Q1 2022 earnings release, and said it’s still on track to reach 230 to 260 million subscribers by 2024. The company’s quarter beat projections after only adding 2 million subscribers in the previous quarter.

Disney broke down the streaming service’s global subscriber count by domestic and international categories. Disney+ has 42.9 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada and has 41.1 million internationally. It also has 45.9 million Disney+ Hotstar subscribers, which is a collaborative service offering between Disney and Star India’s existing streaming service.

The streaming service’s growth topped Wall Street’s expecations of around 7 million new subscribers. It may have also eased investor concerns about the state of the streaming industry after Netflix’s bad quarter, which delivered its lowest subscriber growth since 2015, with just 8.3 million new additions compared with the expected 8.5 million.

As for Disney’s other streaming services, Hulu added 6.6 million new subscribers to reach 45.3 million subscribers and ESPN+ added 4.2 million subscribers to reach 21.3 million. Total subscriptions across Disney’s streaming portfolio reached 196.4 million.

Disney’s stock popped by around 8% on news of the company’s strong earnings, which also saw its parks business bounce back.

Speaking to investors during the company’s earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Disney+’s success during the quarter was largely due to a combination of organic growth and new content. Over the past quarter, Disney+ launched several big-name titles, including Oscar-nominated “Encanto,” “Eternals,” “Hawkeye” and “The Book of Boba Fett.” Chapek said the company reached its goal of releasing one new title each week and that it plans to double this content target.

Disney is aiming to spend $33 billion on new content this fiscal year to gain new subscriptions and continue the momentum from the quarter. Chapek also stated that the streaming service is still on track to reach 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024. 

In addition, Chapek revealed that the new Star Wars Disney+ series, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” which picks up a decade after “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith,” will be released on May 25. The series features the return of Ewan McGregor as the younger Obi-Wan and stars Hayden Christensen, Moses Ingram, Joel Edgerton, Kumail Nanjiani, Indira Varma, Rupert Friend and more.

Another Star Wars Disney+ series, “Andor,” is expected the launch sometime this year. The series will see Diego Luna reprise his “Rogue One” role as Cassian Andor. It will also feature Stellan Skarsgård, Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Kyle Soller, Genevieve O’Reilly and more.

Disney+’s new subscriber numbers come as the streaming service is launching in 42 additional countries and 11 territories in Europe, the Middle East and Africa this summer. Notable new countries include South Africa, Turkey, Poland and the United Arab Emirates. Disney hasn’t specified the exact dates that the service will launch in these new countries and hasn’t shared information regarding regional pricing, but will likely do so in the coming months. Currently, Disney+ is available in 64 countries, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Disney also revealed that it plans to more than double the number of countries Disney+ is available in to over 160 by its fiscal 2023. The company plans on expanding its direct-to-consumer streaming business to more global markets and is creating a new International Content and Operations group to aid in this push.

Disney+ launched in late 2019 and has spent the past couple of years competing with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and several other streaming services. The streaming service has been able to make a name for itself in the streaming space, largely due to its Marvel and Star Wars content.

As for ESPN+, Chapek revealed during an interview with CNBC that Disney is going to bid on the rights to be NFL’s Sunday Ticket. DirecTV’s contract as the exclusive provider for NFL Sunday Ticket is set to expire after the 2022 NFL season and many companies, including Amazon and Apple, are in early talks about a deal. Chapek outlined that sports programming is a pivotal part of the company’s streaming strategy.