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Disney Plus hits 86 million subscribers in a little over one year

Giving Disney confidence to pursue more streaming

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Disney Plus has amassed more than 86 million subscribers since launching in November 2019, CEO Bob Chapek announced. Disney also announced that Hulu has reached 38.8 million subscribers and ESPN Plus has amassed 11.5 million subscribers. Disney’s streaming services now have a combined total of 137 million subscribers.

“Disney Plus has exceeded our expectations,” Chapek said.

Disney Plus’ latest batch of subscribers came amid its expansion into parts of Latin America in late November. Just before the rollout, Chapek announced that Disney Plus had reached just under 75 million subscribers globally. With its new milestone, Disney has accomplished in one year more than executives originally hoped to accomplish by 2024. To put it another way, Disney accomplished in one year what Netflix took several years to do.

Prioritizing streaming as a core part of Disney’s business is paying off for the House of Mouse. Executives have made moves over the course of the last 10 months that seem to have cemented their faith in Disney Plus: Hamilton moved from a theatrical title to Disney Plus for free (alongside Artemis Fowl and Pixar’s upcoming Soul); Mulan kicked off Disney’s Premier Access program, which charges an additional fee for new films, and The Mandalorian’s second season leaped into some of the most-watched programming in the United States, according to Nielsen.

Major shareholders like Dan Loeb are publicly asking Disney to go in even more on streaming, and Disney is listening. The company is planning to forgo its semiannual dividend payout to shareholders to invest in more content for its streaming platforms, most meaningfully Disney Plus. As Guggenheim analyst Michael Morris wrote in a note prior to Disney’s fourth quarter earnings in November, the company is making “streaming its primary mechanism for monetization.”

2021 is shaping up to be a good year for Disney Plus. More live-action adaptations, like Cruella and Pinocchio, are reportedly heading to Disney Plus, Marvel Studios’ series will finally start premiering, and there will likely be new Star Wars things to look forward to. On top of potential new series from Pixar and Disney’s own live-action divisions, Disney is going to want to add as much to its service as possible — especially as WarnerMedia prepares to bring Warner Bros.’ entire slate to HBO Max and compete for people’s wallets and attention.

Disney Plus is still expanding, and it’s still got a long way to go. Netflix likely has more than 200 million subscribers worldwide at this point. But more than 86 million subscribers in just a little over a year is pretty impressive.