Streaming service Disney+ has attracted 73.7 million subscribers in less than a year, as global Covid-19 lockdowns caused viewership to soar.
The Walt Disney Company CEO, Bob Chapek, claims that even with the disruption caused by the pandemic, the company has been able to manage its business by taking “bold, deliberate steps” focused on long-term growth.
“The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company, and on this anniversary of the launch of Disney+ we’re pleased to report that, as of the end of the fourth quarter, the service had more than 73 million paid subscribers – far surpassing our expectations in just its first year,” Chapek says.
Disney has had success premiering films on the streaming platform during the pandemic, including the live-action remake of Mulan, as well as rolling out new series of hit shows such as Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian. However, despite the subscriber growth the direct-to-consumer division – which includes Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+ – posted an operating loss of $580m (£440m) during the fourth quarter.
Disney says improvements to its Hulu business driven by subscriber growth and advertising revenues were partially offset by an increase in programming and production costs. The ESPN+ service did, however, see subscriber numbers grow and benefitted from income driven by Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view events.
Elsewhere, Covid-19 has had a major impact on Disney’s theme parks business, which have been closed or operating at reduced capacity for a significant portion of the year, as well as on its cruise ship business, guided tours and retail stores. In September alone, the company cut 28,000 employees from its US theme parks.