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With 50 Million Disney+ Subscribers, the House of Mouse Has Morphed Into a Streaming Powerhouse

By Daniel Sparks - Apr 9, 2020 at 6:03AM

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And that figure doesn't even include the media giant's Hulu and ESPN+ streaming subscribers.

Less than five months after its launch, Walt Disney's (DIS 3.30%) new streaming service has already garnered more than 50 million subscribers, the company announced after market close on Wednesday. The service, called Disney+, has been a major hit with consumers.

Even more, Wednesday's news highlights how the timing of the streaming platform's launch couldn't have been better. With many consumers all around the world staying home to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, many are clearly turning to Disney+ for home entertainment.

The service's impressive growth captures Walt Disney's rapid progress on its plans to transform into a direct-to-consumer company. Investors unsurprisingly cheered the milestone for Disney+. Shares jumped about 7% in after-hours trading on Wednesday.

Disney+ streaming service on a TV

Image source: Walt Disney.

Torrid growth

It was clear from the start that Disney+ would resonate strongly with consumers. The new service attracted 10 million sign-ups within a day of its launch on Nov. 12. But it's the service's growth since then that is arguably even more notable. After all, many of those early subscribers reflected pent up demand for the service, as management first started talking about the service in August of 2017. 

By the end of Walt Disney's fiscal first quarter, subscribers had climbed to 26.5 million -- a figure that easily beat analyst estimates. Further, management said in its Feb. 4 fiscal first-quarter update that since the close of its fiscal first quarter, subscribers had already risen to 28.6 million.

But the service's growth apparently hasn't slowed, Disney added another 21.4 million subscribers between Feb. 4 and April 8.

Disney+'s global rollout is just getting started

This growth is particularly exciting considering that Disney+ still hasn't launched yet in many major global markets. It wasn't until the last two weeks that the service was rolled out to the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland. Further Disney+ didn't become available in India until last week.

Highlighting the global appeal of Disney's content, and the service's potential to gain tens of millions of more new customers internationally, Disney+ (in conjunction with Disney's Indian over-the-top streaming service Hotstar) already attracted eight million subscribers over the last week in India alone.

The House of Mouse will continue to roll out the service in other global markets this year, including the rest of Western Europe, Japan, and Latin America.

A streaming powerhouse

Putting some context on how big Walt Disney's streaming business has become, Disney+ alone now boasts about 30% of Netflix's (NFLX 2.72%) reported subscribers (167 million) at the end of 2019 -- and that's with a significantly smaller content slate and before the service has rolled out globally.

Of course, Walt Disney also recently took full control of streaming-TV service Hulu last year -- a service that had 30.4 million paying subscribers at the end of fiscal Q1. Then There's ESPN+, which had garnered 6.6 million subscribers by the same date. Walt Disney's total reported streaming members between all three of these services amount to 87 million subscribers.

The media juggernaut's direct-to-consumer transformation is well under way.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short April 2020 $135 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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