ENTERTAINMENT NEWS - Walt Disney chief executive Bob Chapek told investors on Thursday that the company's year-old streaming TV service Disney+ had passed 86.8 million subscribers, beating its "wildest expectations."
The entertainment giant is prioritizing exclusive programming, original shows and movies, and bundled streaming services to build on the momentum of its various offerings which extend beyond Disney+ to include ESPN, Hulu and Star, executives said during an investor day.
"We knew this one-of-a-kind service featuring content only Disney can create would resonate with consumers and stand out in the marketplace," Chapek said of Disney+.
"This success has bolstered our confidence in our continued acceleration towards a direct-to-consumer first business model."
Disney+ competes with streaming television titans Netflix and Amazon Prime in a crowded market for online entertainment.
The streaming service, which will raise its US price by a dollar to $7.99, "has exceeded our wildest expectations with 86.8 million subscribers as of December 2nd," Chapek said.
In a recent corporate reorganization, Disney split distribution from content creation in an effort to be more nimble in its delivery of shows to viewers, according to executives.
Data gathered by Disney+ on audience preferences is shared with creative teams to tailor shows to viewers' tastes, the company said.
"This is especially important now given consumers' rapidly changing consumption behaviors and the prolonged uncertainty due to the pandemic," Chapek said.
Given the pandemic, Disney has planned film premiers on its streaming service and when feasible also at traditional theaters.
Positioning for 'future growth'
Regardless of where Disney content premiers, it will end up on Disney+ according to media and entertainment division chief Kareem Daniel.
"While this has been a very tough year for all of us here at Disney, we continue to take deliberate and innovative steps in running our businesses to best position them for future growth," Chapek said.
The company has an array of Marvel, Star Wars and Disney shows lined up for release on its streaming service over the next few years, according to Daniel.
Disney will expand its television streaming services in 2021 to more markets, including Hong Kong, South Korea and Eastern Europe, according to head of international operations Rebecca Campbell.
Disney will also beef up its streaming service in India, where it has a partnership with Hotstar.
"India is a promising market opportunity," Campbell said.
"This is why we decided to launch Disney+ in conjunction with Hotstar to create a truly integrated entertainment experience for consumers in that market."
The streaming offer includes Bollywood films, local programming and Indian Premier League cricket matches, according to Campbell.
Disney also announced a new "Star Wars" film titled "Rogue Squadron." The movie, by "Wonder Woman" director Patty Jenkins, is set in "a future era of the galaxy" and is scheduled for release at Christmas 2023.
The company additionally made public several new TV series within the sci-fi franchise, including two spin-offs from the creators of "The Mandalorian" and the return of Lando Calrissian.