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Dow Jones News: Disney+ Hits 50 Million Subscribers; Massive Surge in Microsoft Teams Usage

By Timothy Green – Apr 9, 2020 at 1:59PM

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Disney is taking the streaming market by storm, and the popularity of Microsoft's collaboration app rocketed higher in March.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.43%) staged a modest rally on Thursday, up 1.9% at 12:40 p.m. EDT. While a report from the Labor Department put the number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits last week at 6.6 million, additional actions from the Federal Reserve to support the economy during the pandemic appear to be offsetting that bad news.

The Fed announced on Thursday a $2.3 trillion lending program, including $600 billion aimed at small and medium-size businesses, $500 billion targeting state and local governments, and an expansion of some existing credit facilities. As part of this move, the Fed will now buy exchange-traded bond funds that track bonds rated below investment grade.

Shares of Disney (DIS -2.31%) surged on Thursday after the company announced a huge increase in Disney+ subscribers. The stock of Microsoft (MSFT -0.44%) failed to participate in the rally, despite the company disclosing a tenfold increase in usage for its Teams collaboration product.

Disney+ hits 50 million subscribers

Many of Disney's businesses are under siege as the coronavirus pandemic forces governments to implement social distancing to slow the spread. Disney's U.S. parks are closed until further notice, movie releases have been delayed as theaters remains shuttered, and Disney's ESPN has no live sports to air.

The DIsney+ logo.

Image source: Disney.

Fortunately for the company, it launched its highly anticipated Disney+ streaming service five months ago. With people around the world forced to hunker down at home, the company has seen a surge in streaming subscribers. It announced on Wednesday that Disney+ now has 50 million paid subscribers globally. That's up from 28.6 million subscribers as of Feb. 4.

Disney+ has been rolling out to additional markets over the past two weeks, including the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and India. On top of Disney+, the company owns a majority stake in Hulu and offers the sports-centric ESPN+ streaming service. Hulu had nearly 30 million subscribers in early February, although that number is likely higher today.

It didn't take long for Disney to become a major player in the streaming market. While Netflix is still the top dog with 167 million paying subscribers at the end of 2019, Disney is wasting no time challenging the market leader. Shares were up 4.5% by early afternoon; the stock remains down roughly 31% from its 52-week high.

Microsoft Teams a stay-at-home winner

Streaming isn't the only business benefiting from stay-at-home orders. Microsoft Teams is the tech giant's answer to the popularity of work messaging platform Slack and video conferencing wunderkind Zoom. The app is bundled with some commercial Office 365 subscription plans, and a consumer version is on tap for Microsoft's upcoming Microsoft 365 offering.

Microsoft said on Thursday that video calls on Teams surged 1,000% during March, with the percentage of meetings using video more than doubling to 43%. Total minutes spent in meetings on Teams reached 2.7 billion on March 31, up from 900 million on March 19. Microsoft also disclosed that 183,000 education organizations are now using Teams for Education.

One such organization is the New York City school system, which recently banned the use of rival Zoom due to security and privacy concerns. The city's education department is currently transitioning schools to Microsoft Teams.

While usage of Teams may slump after social-distancing measures begin to be relaxed, the pandemic may be accelerating adoption of collaboration and videoconferencing software. With Teams bundled with Office 365, which many businesses already use, Microsoft has a built-in advantage over its rivals.

Shares of Microsoft were down about 0.2% by early afternoon today despite the positive update on Teams. The stock is still down about 14% from its 52-week high.

Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Timothy Green has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Microsoft, Netflix, Slack Technologies, Walt Disney, and Zoom Video Communications and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney, long January 2021 $85 calls on Microsoft, short April 2020 $135 calls on Walt Disney, short January 2021 $115 calls on Microsoft, and short May 2020 $120 calls on Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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