There were a lot of juicy takeaways following Disney's (DIS 0.33%) blowout quarterly report last week, but there's one deceptive metric echoing in the world of streaming media stocks. Did Disney really overtake Netflix (NFLX 2.72%) in the subscriber race between premium on-demand video platforms?
It may seem that way at first glance. Disney's three owned or majority-owned premium offerings combined for 221.1 million subscribers at the end of June. Netflix dipped sequentially during the three-month period, retreating to 220.7 million members worldwide at the midpoint of 2022. They may be passing ships right now, but there's more to this important milestone than you probably think.
Netflix and shill
Where were you the moment that Disney passed Netflix in terms of raw subscriber counts? Wednesday afternoon was important as a plot point, but it wasn't exactly a plot twist. We need to frame things properly before handing Mickey Mouse the keys to the kingdom. For starters, Disney+ didn't flash its high beams, zoom past Netflix, and see the streaming pioneer shrink in the rearview mirror.
Disney's flagship service accounts for 152.1 million of the media giant's total streaming accounts. It's a ridiculously impressive feat for a platform that wasn't even around three years ago, but it's not up to Netflix's haul over the years. The numbers include 22.8 million on ESPN+ and another 46.2 million on Hulu, two longer-running offerings that Disney does not fully own but does have a controlling stake in.
It's also important to point out that Disney's been aggressively pushing its bundle that offers all three services at a discounted price. There may be a small number of Netflix users with more than one account, but there's a lot of overlap with Disney's 220.7 million, where every bundle customer counts as three different subscribers.
Let's also talk about revenue. The most popular midtier plan at Netflix costs $15.49 a month. Disney+ right now goes for a little more than half that at a monthly rate of $7.99. It doesn't end there. More than a third of of those subscribers are in India, paying a monthly average of $1.20 a month for Disney+ Hotstar, a platform that the House of Mouse acquired three years ago. Back that out and the average subscriber is paying $6.29 a month, less than $7.99 since the service offers discounted annual plans and some members are still taking advantage of a three-year pre-paid plan at a deeply discounted rate that was available at the platform's launch in November 2019. Throw Disney+ Hotstar back into the mix, and the average monthly revenue that Disney is collecting from its 152.1 million users is just $4.35.
ESPN+ is setting viewers back an average of $4.55 a month despite its current monthly rate of $6.99 that will bump up to $9.99 next week. Hulu costs more -- and the 4 million cord-cutters on Hulu + Live TV are shelling out a lot more -- but it all adds up to nearly $5.1 billion in revenue for all services combined, an impressive 19% year-over-year increase on the top line.
In the other corner, we have Netflix with a commanding $8 billion in revenue for the same three-month period, as well as a more modest 9% increase when pitted against last year's second quarter. Disney also isn't even close as we work our way down the income statement. Disney doesn't expect to turn a profit with its direct-to-consumer business until fiscal 2024, clocking in with a nearly $1.1 billion operating loss for the segment. Netflix reported a $1.6 billion operating profit.
Is the torch, relay race baton, or crown really going from Netflix to Disney? Momentum is going in that direction, but these ships haven't passed each other just yet. Disney is in the process of dramatically increasing its cover charges. It's not just ESPN+ going up. There will be churn from folks flinching at the 38% increase for ad-free Disney+. There should also be some turnover in November when the folks that pre-paid for three years of Disney+ have to renew at roughly three times what they paid in late 2019. There's no denying that Disney has become a major player in the streaming space, and a hearty chunk of that growth has been organic. However, in just about every way -- revenue, operating profit, customer engagement, and the actual number of unique subscribers -- Netflix is still the lion king of the hill.
Better luck next quarter, Mufasa.