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Here's the Main Reason Disney+ Added 16 Million Subscribers in Q4

By Parkev Tatevosian - Nov 20, 2020 at 12:15PM

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There were many factors contributing to the increase, but there was one that clearly trumped them all.

The Walt Disney Company ( DIS 0.29% ) just completed a volatile fiscal year in 2020. Several of its profitable businesses were forced by local governments to shut their doors to customers and are only slowly reopening. Through it all, its streaming services thrived. 

Overall, Disney has over 120 million subscribers to its three streaming services, Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. Chief among them is Disney+ -- launched on Nov. 12, 2019, it went from zero to over 73 million subscribers in 12 months. 

The Disney+ app being displayed on a smart TV.

Image source: Disney.

Focus on Disney+ 

The House of Mouse started the most recent quarter with 57.5 million Disney+ subscribers and ended with 73.7 million -- a gain of 16.2 million. To put that into context, Netflix ( NFLX 2.10% ) added 2.2 million subscribers in its most recent quarter. Admittedly, that is not an apples-to-apples comparison, as Netflix is a more mature service, but it does highlight the success that Disney+ achieved in the quarter. The success can be attributable to several factors.

During the quarter, the company gave members the privilege of purchasing its latest major title, Mulan, for $29.99. The film started well, but political controversy surrounding its release held it back.

Disney also introduced season two of its popular show The Mandalorian, but the first episode's release date was after the end of its fiscal fourth quarter. Most of the people who sign up wanting to watch the new season will be included in its next quarterly results. 

Additionally, the company continued its international expansion of the streaming service, launching in the Nordics, Belgium, Portugal, and Indonesia. Certainly, increasing the number of countries the service is available in helped add subscribers.  

While all of the above-mentioned factors helped add customers to the service, combined, they were all responsible for less than half of its subscriber growth. 

The main cause of subscriber growth

On its third-quarter conference call, Disney updated investors on its Disney+ figures -- noting that about 15% of its then 60.5 million subscribers are from India. That would imply roughly 9 million viewers from the country. In its fourth and most recent quarter's conference call, Disney CFO Christine McCarthy had this to say:

Disney+ Hotstar subscriber additions were the largest contributor to this increase, driven by the start of the delayed [Indian Premier League] season. Disney+ Hotstar subscribers now account for a little over a quarter of our global subscriber base.

25% of its now 73.7 million subscribers would mean that an estimated 18 million are from India. If you take the previous figure into account, it shows that Disney+ added 9 million new members from India in the quarter, which accounts for over 50% of the total 16 million new members acquired. 

The main reason Disney+ added 16 million subscribers in the quarter is its increasing popularity in India. The success is giving investors in this consumer discretionary stock something to be happy about in an otherwise difficult year for the company.  

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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