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Here's the Stunning Impact Streaming Is Having on Walt Disney's Top Line

By James Brumley - Apr 13, 2020 at 8:46AM

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Streaming services like Disney+ are quickly becoming a meaningful business for the company.

Congratulations are in order. Walt Disney (DIS 3.30%) has now attracted more than 50 million subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service. That's still less than one-third of the 167 million paid streaming customers Netflix was serving at the end of 2019. But considering Disney+ only debuted for U.S. customers in Nov. 2019, and only became available in part of Europe last month and in India just a few days ago, its growth pace is impressive to say the least.

The real question: What does this ultimately mean for Walt Disney's financial results? More than you might think. While not yet as big of a deal as television or movies are for the company, the Disney+ growth trajectory could make streaming just as important as either of those divisions in relatively short order.

Crunching the numbers

It doesn't take too much number crunching to come up with a reasonable estimate. If 50 million paying customers are spending the average of $5.56 per month Disney reported with its fiscal first-quarter results, then Disney+ is generating about $3.3 billion of revenue annually. Not a bad start, but how does that compare with the rest of the media giant's business?

Business charts, including bar charts and pie charts.

Image source: Getty Images.

It's not a game-changer ... yet (more on that in a moment). Last fiscal year, Walt Disney generated $69.6 billion of revenue. Almost $25 billion of that came from the media networks segments -- Walt Disney owns major networks like ABC, ESPN, and FX -- while $26.2 billion of the top line came from the company's theme parks, hotels, and product licensing deals. The studio entertainment business, responsible for Disney's box office hits, only accounted for $11.1 billion of revenue in fiscal 2019, and the direct-to-consumer and international segment delivered $9.3 billion in sales. In that context, Disney+ isn't moving the needle in a big way.

But there's more to the story.

A year from now, Disney+ is likely to have a whole lot more than 50 million paying customers. Exactly how many is anybody's guess, but recall that Netflix serves 167 million paid subscribers. Disney+ has also only been an option in select international markets for a few months, and more regions will open up later this year.

And yet, that's still not the whole story for the company's streaming prospects.

Hulu and ESPN+ sweeten the pot

Missing from the discussion thus far are other Disney-owned streaming services: Hulu and ESPN+.

Walt Disney is actually offering Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ in a bundled package. Whereas a stand-alone Disney+ costs $6.99 per month in the U.S., customers can have access to all three services at a starting monthly price of $12.99. The promotion lowers revenue per subscriber and per service, but it increases total revenue generated when consumers opt to have access to all three offerings for just a few dollars more.

And importantly, some users do seem to be nibbling on the bundle. For the fiscal 2019 fourth quarter, which ended just before Disney+ launched, the company added only half a million Hulu subscribers quarter over quarter for a total of 28.5 million. But in the following report, Hulu's on-demand service grew from 21.1 million to 27.2 million paid subscribers, while its Hulu Live customer base grew from 1.7 million to 3.2 million. That 30.4 million subscriber total represented accelerating sequential growth. While most new Disney+ subscribers are opting for the stand-alone service, there seems to be a sizable swath buying into the bundle too.

That matters, because Hulu's streaming-only customers pay an average of $13.15 per month, while Hulu Live subscribers are paying $59.47 per month. Given all of the numbers Walt Disney has provided, its combined streaming services are adding about $10 billion annually to the top line right now.

Streaming Service Subscriber Count Monthly Revenue Per User Annualized Revenue
Disney+ 50 million $5.56 $3.33 billion
ESPN+ 6.6 million $4.44 $0.35 billion
Hulu On-Demand 27.2 million $13.15 $4.29 billion
Hulu Live 3.2 million $59.47 $2.28 billion
Total     $10.25 billion

Data source: The Walt Disney Company, using most recent company-reported figures for each streaming service. Annualized revenue figures are estimates based on the author's calculations.

No mere side business

That's obviously still not as weighty as the networks or parks and resorts are for the company. On the other hand, it's hardly the end of the road for the growth of Disney+ or the company's other streaming services. As fellow Fool Jeremy Bowman pointed out earlier this year, Disney was initially expecting to sign on 60 million to 90 million Disney+ subscribers by the end of 2024 ... an outlook that now seems quite conservative in terms of timing as well as scope.

Even if the company doesn't sign on a single additional Hulu or ESPN+ customer and only gets to the midpoint of its target range for Disney+ subscribers, that still means total streaming revenue will grow to an annualized figure of nearly $12 billion, making it larger than the company's studio entertainment division. The actual end result in a few years' time will likely be even more impressive.

James Brumley 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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