Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) is going through major disruptions to its business because of COVID-19. Many of its operations had to be shut down to help slow the spread of the virus. The effects of the disruptions created a cash crunch, which led management to pause its dividend and go into the debt markets to borrow billions of dollars.
However, one bright spot for The House of Mouse has been an enthusiastic response to its Disney+ streaming service. As people around the world are staying home more often, they are demanding more in-home entertainment. Enter Disney+, with its expansive library of family-friendly content that can help fill the entertainment needs of a public that's hungry for a distraction from COVID-19.
Stay-at-home trends and affordable pricing are driving Disney+ subscriber growth.
The coronavirus pandemic is not the only reason Disney+ is off to a hot start. The streaming service is priced competitively versus other streaming services. In the U.S., at $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually, it compares well against Netflix, whose service in the U.S. starts at $8.99 per month.
Importantly, as of its latest report, Disney+ had acquired 54.5 million subscribers worldwide. This puts it far ahead of initial projections, which expected it would reach between 60 million to 90 million subscribers by 2024.
Moreover, the service recently launched in Japan, which likely added to the 54.5 million subscriber figure. And Disney+ is not finished rolling out internationally. It's slated to be introduced in the Nordics, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Portugal in September, and then Latin America later in the year. To give you a glimpse of the market potential, Netflix has over 34 million subscribers in Latin America alone.
Additionally, it released Hamilton on Disney+ in July. The addition is said to have increased subscriber totals significantly. The exact number is not yet known, but speaking on the matter, CEO Bob Chapek said "Hamilton brought in a lot of new subscribers and played an important part in Disney+'s growth," according to an audio recording obtained by The Verge.
What this means for investors
Indeed, Disney+ is benefiting from the increase in demand from the coronavirus pandemic as people are demanding more in-home entertainment. This benefit will naturally subside when there is a return to normalcy. However, when the pandemic has run its course, Disney can return to producing new content for the service, which will help attract new viewers.
So does this mean that it will reach 100 million subscribers by the end of 2020? The short answer is probably not. While it will likely add tens of millions of subscribers before the end of the year, the 100 million milestone will depend on when the service becomes available in Latin America and the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic keeps people in their homes.
However, given the additional markets Disney+ will be available to by the end of the year, and the surge in demand for in-home entertainment, it would not be surprising if it reaches 80 million subscribers by the end of 2020.
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Parkev Tatevosian owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $60 calls on Walt Disney and short July 2020 $115 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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