With cinemas around the world having to close their doors at some point over 2020, and those that have been allowed to re-open only able to operate at a reduced service, movie lovers have been starved of new content to watch.
Disney launched their new streaming service, Disney+, at the end of 2019 although it did not roll out worldwide until the end of March 2020. And with the majority of the world either closed or closing in March it was the perfect time to launch, as there was already a captive audience to tap into.
And Disney did just that. With many people still having to stay home, despite original estimates that lockdowns would only last a few weeks, Disney have managed to reach their five-year customer target in only eight months.
Since its launch Disney+ has seen 73.7 million people subscribe to the service, overtaking their original target of between 60-90 million viewers by 2024.
Chief executive at Walt Disney Bob Chapek said, “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.”
Many in the media industry did not believe the service would be a success, especially going against established services including Amazon Prime and Netflix, however by combining a mix of new shows such as the Star Wars spin off The Mandalorian – which featured ‘Baby Yoda’ – alongside old favorites including Boy Meets World, Selena Gomez’s Wizards of a Waverly Place and Hannah Montana – featuring Miley Cyrus – viewing figures have skyrocketed.
The addition of movies both old and new has also been a welcome respite for the millions of people who are still at home due to either lockdown restrictions or loss of work due to covid-19 closures forcing many businesses to reduce their workforce or even close down completely.
Many films that were due to go to the movie theaters were either postponed or moved to streaming services, and with Disney making their own movies they were able to take advantage of this. Mulan, which was due for cinema release earlier in the year, was shown on Disney+ rather than making subscribers wait.
The success of such moves has been so phenomenal that many moviemakers are debating whether to miss out the cinema stage completely and put all their movies directly onto streaming services, potentially changing the way the movie industry operates completely.
Another key aspect of Disney+’s success is the fact they broadcast their shows in 4K, a ‘super-high definition imaging’ meaning that anyone with a newer television would receive a higher quality of viewing.
Disney+ has included many different categories to choose from including Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and National Geographic. They have also been able to include more than 600 episodes of The Simpsons, the first time the entire show has been in one place.
Following the financial damage the corporation has felt in the last 10 months Disney has confirmed they will be focusing more on their streaming service in an attempt to recoup some of the losses they have felt due to their theme parks, movie studios and various other investments being closed.
With many sporting events canceled due to the pandemic, Disney’s ESPN has had struggles over the year, with 300 employees losing their jobs at one point while the company refocused its attention towards their streaming service.
Currently the streaming division, which alongside Disney+ includes ESPN+ and Hulu, is making a loss however revenue was higher than predicted in the last quarter, jumping 41 per cent to $4.9billion while losses were only at $580 million rather than the predicted $1 billion.
While announcing the fourth quarter results the company also confirmed that revenues fell 23 per cent, a figure that has left the company 6 per cent down over the year at $65.4billion. However this was also better than had been predicted.
One of the biggest drops in revenues for Disney was their theme parks which have seen closures for long periods throughout the year – Disneyland in California is still shut since closing its gates in March while in France, a second spike of coronavirus cases saw Disneyland Paris close again in October.
The division saw an operating loss of $1.1billion while revenues fell to $2.6billion, a drop of 61 per cent.
The studio division also struggled with revenue falling 52% to $1.6billion while operating income dropped 6% due to the closures of movie theaters and the postponement of filming of many movies.