Disney (NYSE:DIS) reported fiscal first-quarter earnings results this week, and investors' eyes were on Disney+, the company's flagship video-streaming service that launched in November. The media and entertainment powerhouse had previously said it grabbed 10 million sign-ups on the first day (including presales and free trials). Thanks to aggressive promotions and broad distribution deals, Disney+ sprinted out of the gate.
Disney+ finished the quarter with 26.5 million paid subscribers, and as of this week that figure had climbed to a whopping 28.6 million paid subscribers, according to CEO Bob Iger. In other words, the House of Mouse added 2.1 million Disney+ subscribers in the month of January. That's already approaching half of Netflix's (NASDAQ:NFLX) subscriber base in the comparable geographic segment within just a matter of months.
Disney+ has over 40% of Netflix North American subscribers
Netflix recently revamped its reporting structure to break out its subscriber base by geography. The leading video-streaming company's core region is the U.S. and Canada (UCAN), where it had 67.7 million paid memberships at the end of the fourth quarter.
Disney+ is currently only available in five countries: the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. The U.S. and Canada are larger markets than the other three countries and represent the bulk of subscribers. Iger confirmed that the "vast majority" of Disney+ subscribers were domestic. In other words, the Disney+ subscriber base is over 40% as large as Netflix's UCAN subscriber base, less than three months after the service launched. Netflix introduced its streaming service back in 2007.
"Thanks in large part to our incredible portfolio of great brands, the outstanding content from our creative engines, and a robust technology platform, the launch of Disney+ has been enormously successful, exceeding even our greatest expectations," Iger said. The chief executive added that "both conversion from free to pay and churn rates were better than we expected."
When you add in other subscribers, Disney's streaming customer base climbs even higher. The company now has 30.7 million Hulu paid subscribers and 7.6 million ESPN+ paid subscribers, bringing total streaming subscribers across all services to 66.9 million -- neck and neck with Netflix. The bundle that includes all three services for $13 per month helped contribute to the low churn and strong conversions to paid plans.
Disney is preparing to launch in more international markets, starting with Western Europe and India at the end of March followed by more markets over the summer. Disney+ will continue to expand availability throughout 2021, and Disney is now looking to launch Hulu internationally in 2021. Those expansions abroad represent even greater growth opportunities, although Disney has not factored the initiative into its guidance because it would be "premature" to do so.