All eyes were on Disney (DIS 1.27%) Tuesday, as the company launched its long-awaited and highly anticipated Disney+ streaming service across the U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands. The platform was initially overwhelmed by the demand, as legions of hardcore fans flooded its servers, causing technical glitches and site outages.
On the day following its dramatic launch, Disney released initial subscriber numbers which were far better than many anticipated, driving the stock to a new all-time high of $148.72 by market close.
10 million subscribers
Citing "extraordinary demand," the company said on Wednesday it reached a "major milestone," with the Disney+ subscriber rolls exceeding 10 million signups when the service debuted Tuesday. The company offered potential customers a seven-day free trial, so it's possible some of those subscribers may not stick around beyond the first week. The appeal of the new service was likely a combination of a strong nostalgia factor, an impressive library of content, and a bargain-basement price.
Disney+ launched at $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, though additional discounts were offered to many of the company's most ardent fans. This puts the monthly price at about half the cost of the most popular plan offered by streaming leader Netflix (NFLX 1.93%). The tech giant's standard plan -- which allows streaming on multiple devices and includes high definition, when available -- runs $12.99 per month.
Investors shouldn't expect revised subscription numbers any time soon, as Disney said it doesn't plan to provide any additional subscriber data outside of its quarterly earnings calls. This means that shareholders won't get another update until early next year.
Well ahead of schedule
Analyst Daniel Ives from Wedbush called the numbers "jaw-dropping," noting that this was considerably higher than Wall Street forecasts. Analysts' consensus estimates were calling for just 8 million subscribers by year-end, a threshold Disney has soared past already. Ives noted that the initial success of Disney+ could translate to the company hitting its initial goal of 60 million to 90 million subs "potentially two years earlier" than its previous goal of 2024 -- that is if growth continues at the current pace.
Disney+ has a content library that's unmatched and includes more than 7,500 television episodes and over 500 movies that include some of the company's most successful franchises, from The Simpsons to The Avengers and from Star Wars to Toy Story. Disney+ will also feature exclusive content, including 25 new series and 10 movie specials that will roll out gradually over the next year. By having so many films and shows with a proven track record, Disney is demonstrating its streaming might right out of the gate.
It isn't stopping there, either. By 2024, Disney plans to expand its catalog to more than 10,000 television episodes and more than 600 movies, as well as 50 new, exclusive series.
Here's how it compares
While scoring 10 million subscribers its first day is a noteworthy achievement, it's also important to put that number into context. Netflix currently boasts more than 158 million viewers worldwide, with millions more joining every quarter. Amazon.com's (AMZN 1.75%) Prime loyalty service has more than 100 million subscribers, but not all of them watch Prime Video.
At the Hulu 2019 presentation in May, the Disney-controlled platform said it surpassed 26.8 million paying subscribers -- and that number has surely climbed higher in the ensuing months. At the time, its U.S. customer base was growing at twice the rate of Netflix's.
Streaming pioneer and aggregation platform Roku (ROKU -3.58%) has more than 32 million active accounts that streamed more than 10 billion hours last quarter alone.
This serves as a reminder that Disney+ isn't the only streaming game in town.
A word of caution
Disney's eye-popping initial subscriber numbers aside, it's important to remember that the company has been signing up prospective viewers to its nascent service for months -- and investors should temper their expectations with that fact in mind.
The House of Mouse did everything it needed to do with Disney+ on its first day of streaming, and Disney shareholders are ultimately reaping the benefits.