Disney said Wednesday it added 14.4 million subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service in the April-June fiscal quarter, putting it just ahead of Netflix in the streaming wars with about 221 million total streaming subscriptions.
Netflix ended June with 220.7 million subscribers after losing nearly one million subscribers in the past quarter.
Walt Disney Co. also said Wednesday it is raising prices for streaming subscribers in the U.S. who want to watch Disney+ without ads, as more viewers switch to what CEO Bob Chapek described as the “best value in streaming.”
The price increases are tied to a new tiered service Disney will launch in December for U.S. subscribers. The basic Disney+ service today costs $7.99 ($10.21 Cdn) per month. Starting in December, that basic service will run ads, so a subscriber who wants no ads will have to upgrade to a premium service that starts at $10.99 ($14.04 Cdn) per month, a 37.5 per cent rise over current prices. An annual plan will cost $109.99 ($140.52 Cdn).
It’s not clear if the cost of a subscription will change in Canada, where Disney+ costs $11.99 per month or $119.99 per year.
“We expect the ad tier to be popular and we expect some people to want to stay with ad-free,” Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said on a conference call with analysts.
Netflix’s most popular streaming plan in the U.S. is now $15.50 ($19.80 Cdn) per month, and its top-of-the-line plan is $20 ($25.55 Cdn) per month. That follows several rate hikes to help pay for its original programming, which has become even more important since Disney pulled its programming and classic movies from Netflix after licensing agreements between the companies expired.
Disney said paid subscriptions for Disney+ grew by 31 per cent, much of that internationally, over the same time last year. But revenue growth was not as strong due to operating losses from “higher programming and production, technology and marketing costs.”
Disney beats earnings expectations
Disney’s growing sales for its streaming services, which include Hulu and ESPN+, combined with a recovering theme park business after pandemic-era shutdowns led the Burbank, California-based entertainment giant to beat Wall Street expectations with quarterly earnings Wednesday.
Disney reported revenue of $21.5 billion US in the three months through July 2, up 26 per cent from the same time last year.
Disney said sales at its parks, experiences and products segment grew to $7.39 billion ($9.4 billion Cdn), up 70 per cent from $4.34 billion ($5.5 billion Cdn) a year earlier. The numbers represented an ongoing comeback from COVID-19 restrictions that temporarily shuttered all of Disney’s parks in 2020, reduced capacity through much of 2021 and have continued to affect some locations such as Shanghai Disneyland, which was open for just three days in the April-June quarter.