It took Walt Disney (DIS -0.53%) less than a year to exceed 60 million subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service, but it will take another four years for it to add the next 60 million or so.

The market analysts at eMarketer estimate that by 2024, Disney+ will hit 123.4 million subscribers, at which point it will have surpassed its sister service, Hulu, which will have 115.6 million viewers.

Baby Yoda

The Child, from the hit show The Mandalorian, has been a big draw for the Disney+ service. Image source: Disney.

All eyes on the mouse ears

Growth is expected to moderate over the next few years after getting off to a blistering start last November. Disney itself had forecast it wouldn't hit 60 million subscribers until 2025, but as eMarketer notes, it's been able to leverage its vast content library to boost interest in the video streaming service that some other platforms haven't been able to match.

Disney+ was also fortunate to have launched late last year, perfectly timed to capture large swaths of viewers that were suddenly locked down at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic that emerged in the months following the service's debut.

eMarketer's forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence, Eric Haggstrom, also noted that it wasn't necessarily organic growth that let Disney+ come so far.

"Bundled offerings with Hulu and ESPN+, as well as distribution deals with Verizon, have enabled it to grow new subscriptions quickly and reduce subscriber churn," he noted in the report.

Many of those subscriptions, though, will expire at the end of the year, so it remains to be seen whether Disney can hold onto them once its partners stop paying for the service.

eMarketer estimates the number of viewers will grow 17.2% in 2021, but the rate of increase will steadily degrade so that by 2024 the number will rise by 11.6% from the prior year.