Disney Surpasses Netflix in Subscribers, But Needs to Raise Prices

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Disney Surpasses Netflix in Subscribers, But Needs to Raise Prices

Mickey Mouse has won the latest battle in the streaming wars—but at a big cost.

Burbank-based Walt Disney Co. surpassed Netflix in total subscribers after signing up way more customers than expected during its most recent quarter. The strong growth helped boost the company’s share price in after-hours trading on Wednesday and signaled that the streaming market isn’t nearing saturation yet—despite the recent doom and gloom surrounding the business.

Yet Disney also lost $1.1 billion on streaming during the fiscal third quarter, much more than the roughly $300 million lost this time last year. That’s likely a big reason why the company also announced price hikes for Disney Plus—its flagship streaming service— as the entertainment giant tries to generate more revenue from the money-losing business.

Disney Plus added 14.4 million subscribers, bringing the platform’s total to 152.1 million. Counting sister services Hulu and ESPN Plus, Disney now has 221 million global subscribers, slightly more than the 220 million customers Netflix reported in July.

Disney’s results beat analysts’ expectations and bucked the negative trend facing streaming lately. Netflix has been reeling this year, losing more than 1 million customers and planning big changes to its business. Comcast’s Peacock added no new paying subs during the previous quarter. And Warner Bros. Discovery is reversing course on streaming under its new management, canning original films for HBO Max.

Wall Street has largely changed its mind about streaming. After rewarding media giants with higher stock prices for investing in streaming services, investors are now reportedly more concerned about profits and return on investment. Several media companies, including Disney, are losing hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter to invest in streaming, hoping the profits come later. Investors have generally sent media stock prices tumbling this year.

On Wednesday, however, Wall Street was happy with Disney. The company’s share price was up nearly 7% to $120.05 as of 2:20 p.m. PST in after-hours trading.

The surge in subscriber growth was somewhat overshadowed by the growing financial losses from the online business and the new plan to raise prices. The company blamed higher costs for programming technology and marketing. Disney also lowered its subscriber forecast for 2024.

Like Netflix, Disney plans to release an ad-supported tier later this year to give customers a cheaper option. But it turns out that’s a bit of a bait and switch, as the version with ads won’t cost less than what customers are currently paying.

Disney plans to charge $7.99 per month to stream with ads, the same price the company currently bills for ad-free service. The cost of Disney Plus without ads will increase $3 per month to $10.99 as of Dec. 8. The price of Hulu without ads is also going up, from $12.99 to $14.99. Hulu with ads is increasing $1 per month to $7.99. These price hikes come on the heels of ESPN Plus’ cost increase from $6.99 to $9.99 per month.

Raising prices could make the streaming business more sustainable, but hiking subscription costs comes with some risk. Consumers are feeling the pinch from inflation and have already signaled that they’re willing to cancel a “costly” subscription.

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Henrik Fisker Says Tesla Price Cuts Haven’t Fazed Ocean Rollout

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

A Fisker electric vehicle.​
Courtesy of Fisker

Last week in the dot.LA newsletter I wrote about Tesla’s decision to slash prices by as much as 20% on their vehicles and how the decision might impact Southern California’s EV startups. I called the price cuts a “tough pill to swallow” for Fisker in particular since they would make many of Tesla’s price points more competitive with Fisker’s first production model, The Ocean.

The Ocean is currently undergoing homologation, but Henrik Fisker, the company’s CEO, confirmed to dot.LA that the company hopes the process to be completed at the end of February. From there, it could take several weeks to ship the SUVs from Austria to the United States.

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Office Hours: Former Lawyer Turned CEO Diankha Linear on Cultivating Community

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

​Diankha Linear
Diankha Linear

On this episode of Office Hours, Community CEO Diankha Linear joins host Spencer Rascoff to discuss her foray into the startup world and the strategic approaching to scaling up.

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LA Tech ‘Moves’: Dreamscape, LinQuest and PetDX Gain New CEOs

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Dreamscape, LinQuest and PetDX Gain New CEOs

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.


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