The Walt Disney Company is reportedly preparing for a massive “revelation” in mid-January, and all fans can do is count down the days until the announcement, which, according to those at Disney, looks to be a win-win for everyone involved–fans included.
The Disney+ streaming platform was four years old in November, having first rolled out to subscribers on November 12, 2019. But instead of Disney+ being wildly successful, lucrative, and standing head and shoulders above the competition, the most magical streamer on earth has been largely problematic for The Walt Disney Company in several ways.
The Most Magical Streamer on Earth is Quite Magical, Indeed
Since its inception, the undeniable strength of Disney+ has been its content.
The streamer rolled out in November 2019 with brand-new content, including the live-action Lady and the Tramp, a fresh take-two of Disney’s 1955 animated canine film, The Mandalorian, an all-new Star Wars-infused and Star Wars-inspired creation by Jon Favreau that is unique in that being a Star Wars fan is not a prerequisite for appreciating and understanding the events in the series.
Within two weeks of the roll-out, The Mandalorian had become the most watched offering of any streaming platform, including Netflix.
Overall, the public reception of Disney’s new streamer was very positive, leaving some fans almost feeling guilty for paying less than $7 per month per subscription, and over time, the number of fans subscribing to Disney+ has increased exponentially.
Profitability is Still Non-Existent
Disney+ has struggled to become profitable since its inception. While the streaming service generates revenue for The Walt Disney Company–$8.4 billion in revenue in 2023 alone, an increase of 13% year over year–but profits are another thing entirely.
On November 8, during The Walt Disney Company’s fiscal earnings call, the company touted an impressive 150 million Disney+ subscribers, up from 146.7 million subscribers in the previous quarter. As of the end of the quarter on September 30, 2023, Disney reported core Disney+ subscriptions at just under 113 million and India-based Hotstar subscriptions at almost 38 million.
In the same quarter, Hulu reached a total of 48.5 million subscribers, and ESPN+ increased to 26 million subscribers total.
But the increases in streaming subscriptions have yet to lead to a profit. During the November 8 earnings call with Disney CEO Bob Iger and Wall Street’s finest, the company shared numbers that seem to indicate that Disney is slowing the bleed when it comes to losses related to Disney’s streaming business.
In the fiscal fourth quarter, Disney lost $387 million in streaming, a year over year improvement of approximately 74%. In the same quarter of 2022, Disney’s streaming losses topped out at more than $1.4 billion.
C-Level Disney Execs Named in Streaming Business Lawsuit
In addition to the lack of profitability of Disney’s streaming business, the company has also been plagued by a class-action lawsuit that alleges three former Disney executives engaged in illegal business practices related to untruths about the potential for profitability of Disney’s streaming business.
The suit, which alleges that executives at Disney misled shareholders with regard to the performance and profitability of the Disney+ streaming platform, was filed on behalf of shareholders earlier this year. The complaint further alleges that in doing so, Disney’s executives violated federal securities laws, and as a result, shareholders are due some form of restitution from the company.
According to court documents, the suit specifically names three former Disney execs as having culpability in the alleged misleading. They are former CFO Christine McCarthy, who stepped down in June 2023, former CEO Bob Chapek, who was removed from his post by Disney’s Board of Directors in November 2022, and Kareem Daniel, Disney’s former Media and Entertainment Distribution Chairman.
Each of the former executives are accused of having involvement in “drafting, producing, reviewing and/or disseminating false and misleading statements” regarding the potential for the success of Disney’s streaming business. That’s according to a 39-page document filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on May 12, 2023.
Though Chapek and Daniel were fired by Disney, former CFO Christine McCarthy resigned her position earlier this year, and some believe it’s because she was named in the suit, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Something Has to Give
As the company continues to lose money in its streaming business, which has now been in place for more than four years, it’s clear that something has to change if Disney intends to eventually make a profit from its streaming efforts. And it appears that Disney might just have come up with a potentially lucrative strategy.
Disney is reportedly gearing up for an expansion of the Disney+ user experience. The expansion is aimed at improving and enhancing the experience for subscribers, while increasing their engagement on the platform. It is also aimed at enhancing advertising opportunities, according to Disney’s President of Advertising Sales, Rita Ferro, who recently shared a brief look at Disney’s vision for the streaming platform.
Economic Times claims that “overall, platform engagement has seen a positive uptick, encouraging Disney to explore novel experiences for its audience. Notably, the number of advertisers collaborating with Disney+ has surged from 100 at the plan’s launch to over 1,000 worldwide, concurrently contributing to improved streaming economics.”
Shopping and Gaming on Disney+?
As part of the Disney+ expansion, the company is reportedly mulling over the idea of launching various gaming and shopping experiences on the platform–something that could not only boost subscriber engagement and enhance the overall experience for users, but also draw in more advertisers, which could also boost Disney’s bottom line.
“The world of advertising experiences on AVOD (advertisement-based video on demand) is an important place to be involved,” Ferro said, hinting about Disney dropping big news about the Disney+ platform expansion at the CES convention in January. Ferro added that Disney’s possible reveal could let subscribers in on “what the next level of ad innovations will be” from The Walt Disney Company.
The specifics surrounding a new take on the Disney+ user experience are undisclosed as of this time, but revelations are expected in an upcoming Disney presentation scheduled in Las Vegas on January 10, 2024.