After Netflix’s tough quarter, Disney+ gains 7.9M more subscribers to reach 138M total

The Walt Disney Company reported earnings for its second fiscal quarter ended April 2, 2022, announcing a 7.9 million increase of subscribers for Disney+, which brings the total to 137.9 million subs.

This was ahead of analyst forecasts of 5.2 million new subscribers and follows a tough quarter for its streaming rival Netflix, which recently reported a loss of 200,000 subs and predicted a 2 million drop for the second quarter.

Across all of Disney’s streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+), total subscriptions exceeded 205 million, a quarterly net increase of 9.2 million driven by its flagship streamer. Hulu contributed 45.6 million this quarter (up 10% year over year), and ESPN+ added 1 million for a total of 22.3 million (up 62% year over year).

Bob Chapek, chief executive officer, The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement that these positive results “once again proved that we are in a league of our own.” He reiterated in the earnings call that the company is still on track to reach 230 to 260 million subscribers by fiscal 2024.

Revenues for the quarter grew 23% to $19.25 billion and earnings of 25 cents per share, exceeding Wall Street expectations of $18.91 billion. However, despite this, the Mouse House took a $1.02 billion hit related to ending content licensing agreements, and shares dropped more than 2% in after-hours trading Wednesday.

Disney wrote in the report that it ended the agreement “in order for the company to use the content primarily on our direct-to-consumer services.” While it wasn’t clear what the specific programming was, it is probable that it was the former deal with Netflix, which included Netflix’s slate of Marvel series, namely “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” “Iron Fist,” “The Defenders,” and “The Punisher.”

Known for its kid-friendly content, some parents have been upset with the streamer for adding more adult-focused shows after it launched stricter parent controls. Chapek stated during the call that 50% of Disney+ subscribers are families without kids. He continued by saying that the streaming service will continue to strive for a broader audience and recognizes Disney+’s “unique ability to attract viewers from a range of demographic groups.”

In addition, there is a good amount of upcoming content like “Obi-Wan Kenobi” appearing on the service in a few weeks and Marvel’s “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” which is estimated to be released on the platform in July. Subscribers also had the chance to watch new titles this quarter, such as “Moon Knight,” “Turning Red” and reboot “Cheaper by the Dozen.”

Another way it’s broadening its audience is by adding a cheaper ad-supported tier. By doing so, Chapek added that the company could be increasing content investment, and as a result, “We believe that’s going to give us the ability to adjust our price.”

He goes on to say, “As we expand Disney+ across multiple price points and using some of our other services, we can see the additive nature of an ad-driven service that enables us to keep the price lower, of course, that’s made up for by the additional revenue that we will get per user on the advertising spending. So we believe that we can move up and cascade up our net price over time given the tremendous value that we started with, the increased price-value relationship, and all of the new content. But we’re pretty bullish about that.” This may suggest that we will see a price increase in the future.

The media conglomerate is planning to launch the lower-priced ad-supported option in late 2022 or 2023, whereas its competitor Netflix may be eyeing a Q4 rollout for its own advertising-supported plan.

Looking forward to the summer, Disney+ is expanding to 42 additional countries and 11 territories across Europe, West Asia, and Africa. The rollout will start next week on May 18 in South Africa.

“As we look ahead to Disney’s second century, I am confident we will continue to transform entertainment by combining extraordinary storytelling with innovative technology to create an even larger, more connected, and magical Disney universe for families and fans around the world,” said Chapek.

Updated 5/12/22 at 9:00 a.m. Marvel’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” was not included in the Netflix deal.