As the streaming wars rage on, companies are experimenting with various strategies that might push them ahead of the competition. Disney (DIS 0.70%) has grown Disney+ and Hulu substantially with the use of popular franchises and has recently shown interest in acquiring the rights to stream popular TV series abroad.
Here's why Disney is right to seek fandoms outside the U.S. to dominate streaming on a global level.
Disney's acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox in March 2019 gave the company ownership over a valuable content catalog and a 60% majority stake in Hulu. Since Disney took control, the streaming service has doubled in size, with subscriptions totaling 22.8 million in the first quarter of 2019 and increasing to 45.6 million in Q2 2022. Much of the company's success with Hulu has been its continued offering of popular franchise shows such as Family Guy and Bob's Burgers that have a particularly large U.S. fanbase.
Family Guy was in the top five most-watched non-sports and non-news programs on Hulu in 2020, and it continues to hold the top spot. The animated series was the most-watched show on Hulu in 2021, with over 1 million viewing hours, and it continues to be the most-watched show in 2022, with 679,000 viewing hours so far. Similarly, Bob's Burgers has held a position in the top 10 on Hulu for the last two years.
Additionally, Disney has used the power of fandoms to expand its flagship streaming service, Disney+. The company has leveraged the juggernaut Marvel and Star Wars brands to grow Disney+ into a streaming titan. The service launched in November 2019 in the U.S. and has amassed 137.7 million subscribers in less than three years, with much of its success owed to Marvel and Star Wars. Each brand has received new series exclusive to the service, with a release schedule that involves weekly episodes and leaves little time for subscribers to drop the service between shows.
Disney is taking its tried-and-true streaming strategy abroad as it seeks popular franchises to add to its roster of established entertainment. On July 22, Bloomberg revealed Disney is in talks with the BBC to acquire the streaming rights for the globally renowned Doctor Who series. The deal would potentially allow Disney+ to air new episodes of the show worldwide, attracting subscribers from multiple countries.
As the introduction of new platforms continues to saturate the U.S. market, the international presence of streaming companies is increasingly important. Hulu is only available in the U.S. and Japan, but Disney+ has so far launched in more than 190 countries. The House of Mouse is on a mission to dominate markets outside the U.S. and plans on attracting members using popular franchises.
Doctor Who may not have a massive American viewership, but the show is the longest-running sci-fi series in history and remains a staple of British entertainment. In April 2015, the show landed in India for the first time after a deal between the BBC and FX. Myleeta Aga, VP and GM of BBC Worldwide in India, said at the time, "We've seen an increasing interest in British drama from our partners in the last 12 months or so. Viewers now recognize the originality of British drama, and this has caused a surge in interest in our drama series like Doctor Who."
The potential addition of Doctor Who to Disney+ in India is significant, as the country is the largest market for Disney, with its 45.9 million members making up a third of the service's global subscriber count. Doctor Who has now had seven years to grow its Indian fanbase, making the show even more valuable to Disney+.
Disney is on the right track with its efforts to bulk up its library of established franchises. The Asia-Pacific region is currently the fastest-growing streaming market, expected to be worth $31.05 billion by 2025. Disney+ has already made significant inroads in the area. However, while Marvel has a substantial pull in Asia-Pacific countries, Star Wars will likely attract a considerable viewership only in Australia.
To fend off its biggest competitors -- Netflix and Amazon's Prime Video, which are already present in the region -- Disney will want to continue focusing on offering franchises popular in specific areas. It's positive that the company is aware Marvel and Star Wars will only take it so far and is seeking shows like Doctor Who to further its reach.