Walt Disney's (DIS -0.70%) new streaming service got off to a strong start, attracting 26.5 million subscribers through December. "Disney+ has been enormously successful, exceeding even our greatest expectations," CEO Bob Iger commented during the fiscal first-quarter conference call.
Overall, management is "heartened by the fact that there has been basically consumption of a broad array of product across all of our brands," as Iger explained, referencing that about "65% of the people who watched The Mandalorian watched at least 10 other things on the service."
However, after finishing the quarter with 26.5 million subscribers, Disney+ only added 2.1 million new subs since the end of December. That's still a good number, but it shows that the momentum dramatically slowed following the last episode of The Mandalorian's first season in late December.
Maintaining a steady cadence of original content releases is crucial to keep the service growing, especially with so many competing services launching, not to mention the massive amount of money Netflix continues to spend on original content.
Here's a look at what's in store for Disney+ in the year ahead.
Content slate for 2020
Disney is coming off another record year at the box office, generating $11 billion from its film releases. Many of its billion-dollar films are already available exclusively on Disney+. "We'll continue to add high-quality content to the service that includes Frozen 2 and Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker," Iger said.
Two TV series from the Marvel universe will come later in the year. The much anticipated The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will premiere in August, and WandaVision will be available in December. There's also a series featuring the Marvel character Loki, originally appearing in Thor (2011) and The Avengers (2012), releasing in the next year.
If Marvel fans want to stay in the loop on future movies, they may want to sign up soon. As Iger noted, "These same characters and actors from the Marvel cinematic universe, along with events from these new shows, will factor into future Marvel films, as we integrate storytelling across these platforms, all under the Marvel Studio banner."
As for Star Wars content, the second season of The Mandalorian will release in October this year, which is a smart scheduling strategy. New episodes will trickle out into early December, stirring shoppers for Baby Yoda merchandise during the holidays.
But consumers don't have to wait for Black Friday. "We know there's great anticipation for the substantial array of Baby Yoda consumer products hitting the market in coming months," Iger said.
Launching in more countries
Most Disney+ subscribers have come from the domestic market so far. The service is currently available in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, and Canada, but Disney+ will be launching in Western Europe on March 24. The service will also roll out in Belgium, the Nordics, and Portugal in the summer.
Also, Disney+ will be available in India starting on March 29 through the Disney-owned Hotstar service. "We see this as a great opportunity to use the proven platform of Hotstar to launch the new Disney+ service in one of the most populous countries and fastest-growing economies in the world," as Iger explained.
Deep content pipeline
Disney+ subscribers have "a lot to look forward to," according to Iger, including "multiple new series from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and National Geographic."
"We have a few Star Wars series in varying stages of production and development," Iger said, and added, "We have the three Marvel series that were announced, and I think there are seven other Marvel series that are in varying stages of development or preproduction."
Disney should see a jump in subscribers in the next few quarters, as management expects most of the subscriber growth to come from international markets.
Another wave of subscribers will likely come during the second half of calendar year 2020. Management expects "meaningful" growth in the U.S. to coincide with the releases of original series from Marvel and season two of The Mandalorian.
Disney has executed the launch of Disney+ extremely well, and the future growth of the service looks well in hand given the content roadmap.