Disney Plus had the wind at its back to close out 2020: The streaming service notched 94.9 million customers worldwide as of the end of the year-end quarter, the company announced.
That’s up from 86.8 million paid subscribers as of Dec. 2, and tops Disney’s original projections of landing up to 90 million subs within four years.
Disney Plus’ continued growth through December benefitted from the premiere of Pixar’s “Soul” on the platform and the culmination of Season 2 of Star Wars-set hit series “The Mandalorian,” both of which turned in strong viewership numbers, according to Nielsen. It’s scored another buzzy release with Marvel’s “WandaVision,” which debuted in January.
And Disney is investing big money into originals to keep the streaming train powering forward — and to retain existing subscribers. At its investor day in December, the company outlined a slate of 105 movies and TV series, 80% of which are targeted for its direct-to-consumer streaming services, under the Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Animation and Pixar brands.
Disney Plus stands to get another kick with the rollout starting later this month of Star, Disney’s international general-entertainment service analogous to Hulu, which will be integrated with Disney Plus (except in Latin America).
The continued rise of Disney Plus — coupled with strong Q4 subscriber gains for Netflix and HBO Max — illustrate that the so-called “streaming wars” aren’t a zero-sum fight, at least in today’s pandemic environment.
Disney Plus’ strength has given the media conglomerate confidence to raise pricing: Effective March 26, 2021, the service’s price in the U.S. will increase to $7.99 per month (up from $6.99 now) or $79.99 per year (up from $69.99). The three-way bundle with Disney Plus, Hulu with ads and ESPN Plus will increase to $13.99 per month, also up a dollar.
There’s one caveat on the Disney Plus subscriber figures: About 30% of those come through Disney Plus Hotstar in India, which carries a much lower average price point than other regions.
The Mouse House bowed Disney Plus in November 2019 in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, before expanding to Europe and India last year. It offers a rich library of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars movies as well as hit original series “The Mandalorian” and other exclusive TV shows and movies.
Given the service’s strong momentum in year one, Disney in December provided a dramatic upward revision on its forecast for Disney Plus: It now expects 230 million to 260 million total paid subscribers by September 2024.
Pictured above: Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel’s “WandaVision” on Disney Plus