Disney Plus Blows Past Expectations with 73M Subscribers
Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake
- Streaming continues to outperform expectations, led by Disney Plus, where worldwide subscribers have grown past 73 million.
- Disney's other divisions remain in a tough spot, though live sports has helped the company's media networks division.
- The formerly lucrative amusement parks division's struggles continue, with Disneyland expected to remain closed until 2021, prompting chief executive Bob Chapek to take a shot at California Governor Gavin Newsom.
Disney Plus was the shining star for Disney's year-end earnings report on Thursday. Paid subscribers blew past expectations to 73 million as of October 3rd. Reported quarterly revenue of $14.7 billion beat Wall Street expectations, although it still represents a 23% decrease year-over-year.
Disney shares jumped by as much as 6% in after-hours trading on the news.
Part of Disney Plus' subscriber boost can be attributed to the July release of "Hamilton," anticipation for season two of "The Mandalorian" that began to roll out in October, and the move to bring "Mulan" to the platform for a $30 fee, rather than proceed with a (delayed) theatrical release.
The company did not provide specific figures for "Mulan" on Disney Plus, though chief executive Bob Chapek noted that its performance suggests "we've got something here in terms of the premier-access strategy."
Notably, over a quarter of Disney Plus' subscribers come from Disney's Hotstar subsidiary in India, where the average revenue-per-user is below $1, according to media analyst Rich Greenfield.
More subscriber growth is likely, as Disney Plus will launch in Latin America next week, Chapek said in prepared remarks. Pixar's "Soul" will also premiere on the service, for free, in December.
Overall, Disney's streaming umbrella, which includes Hulu and ESPN Plus, now boasts over 120 million subscribers worldwide. When Disney Plus launched in November 2019, the company had projected it would take five years to gain 60 - 80 million subscribers.
"The real bright spot has been our direct-to-consumer business, which is key to the future of our company," Chapek said in a statement, adding that Disney will be "heavily tilting" its investment from linear to DTC.
While that streaming-centric future has been accelerated by the pandemic, the coronavirus continues to devastate Disney's parks and experiences division. With some parks shuttered completely and others operating at limited capacity, quarterly income fell $2.4 billion year-over-year, while full-year income fell $6.9 billion.
That loss fell heavily on the company. Overall quarterly operating income fell 82% year-over-year. Fiscal year total revenues saw a 6% decline to $65.4 billion, while operating income fell 45%.
The company expects Disneyland to stay closed until 2021. Chapek took a shot at California Governor Gavin Newsom, who has ordered Disneyland to remain shuttered indefinitely.
"We are extremely disappointed that the state of California continues to keep Disneyland closed," said Chapek in his prepared remarks. "We believe state leadership should look objectively at what we've achieved at our parks around the world.... as opposed to setting an arbitrary standard."
Chapek noted that Orlando-based Disney World has been able to increase from 25% capacity when it reopened in July to 35% capacity while remaining in compliance with social distancing guidelines.
He also expressed optimism despite the bleak figures. "Through forward bookings and reservations, people are showing encouraging signs to spend time with us at a Disney park," he said.
Disney's media networks, which include ESPN, ABC, FX and the Disney Channel, saw a revenue bump for both the quarter and the year, of 11% and 14%, respectively, boosted by advertising associated with the return of live sports. On the studio side, with production continuing to face challenges, quarterly revenues fell 52%, while the yearly figure dropped 13%.
The company also announced it is permanently suspending its dividend, which some investors have been calling for in order to invest further in streaming.
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LA Tech Updates: Apple Podcast Vet Joins QCODE, Amazon Reportedly in Talks to Buy Wondery, Pharrell's New Black Ambition Incubator
Apple Podcast Veteran Joins Startup QCODE<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUzNTQzMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDUzMzYyNH0.pOGV2lL0qOJQDiWw1T5i4SqsGfaL54hLWED6_5Mf1Ww/img.png?width=980" id="8d68d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f2a47797239f360473fead53338231d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="qcode" />www.sonos.com <p>QCODE, a Los Angeles podcast startup run by a former Creative Artists Agency talent agent, snagged longtime Apple podcast executive Steve Wilson. The 15-year veteran will become QCODE's chief strategy officer.</p> <p>QCODE, which <a href="https://dot.la/sonos-podcast-qcode-2648395035.html" target="_self">last month raised $6.4 million</a> in a Series A round led by Sono, is positioning itself as a funnel for Hollywood. </p> <p>Founded by Rob Herting, a former agent who had represented largely writers and filmmakers, the company has produced eight shows since 2019. Several have been auctioned for film and television, including "Dirty Diana." Amazon picked up the 6-part erotic drama for a TV series.</p>Wilson, who most recently ran marketing for Apple Podcasts, brings insights from the behemoth platform as the industry sees revenues soar. Advertising brought in near $1 billion this year, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau's podcast report prepared by PwC.
Amazon Reportedly in Exclusive Talks to Buy Wondery<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5NDU5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjgyMDY3NX0.BHKSXjwra-gGsFEa7lXCCCMJXWV5cYxrZqhddj3-uds/img.jpg?width=980" id="d401d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c9c9eee1f9adc4c1d5edeca1af986a84" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Hernan Lopez" />Hernan Lopez started Wondery with the belief that in-depth, narrative audio stories were poised to bloom.<p>Amazon is in "exclusive talks" to buy podcast company Wondery and subsume its 30 hit shows and over 8 million monthly listeners into its empire, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.</p> <p>The talks reportedly value Wondery above $300 million, in line with previous estimates from analysts, when Apple and Sony were said to have expressed interest.</p> <p>Wondery has produced dozens of original series including "Dr. Death" and "Business Wars," and has 19 shows currently in development to become television series. </p> <p>The company does not publicly disclose its financials, but chief executive Hernan Lopez has previously said the company is profitable. About three-quarters of Wondery's revenue comes from advertising, but Lopez has said the company's revenue share from content licensing is growing (Wondery owns the intellectual property for all of its originals). It also launched a subscription service, Wondery Plus, in June and is currently looking to expand its international footprint. </p> <p>Wondery, the West Hollywood-based company with the largest audience of any independent podcast producer, has been the subject of swirling rumors that several suitors are interested in acquiring it.</p> <p>After a pandemic-induced decline that struck much of the podcasting industry, Wondery's audience has surpassed its pre-COVID levels. Its Q3 revenue was about double year-on-year and its Q4 performance has been strong, Lopez previously told dot.LA. </p> <p>Podcasting overall now attracts over 100 million monthly listeners, according to Edison Research. The Interactive Advertising Bureau projects podcasting revenues to exceed $1 billion by 2021.</p> <p>That growth has spurred somewhat of an arms race, most evident in Spotify's spending spree, which also has helped that company diversify from its reliance on streaming. Amazon Music is one of Spotify's biggest competitors along with Apple Music, and <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-music-joins-podcasting-fray-11600261201?mod=article_inline" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently expanded into podcasts as well</a>. </p> <p>Acquiring Wondery would give Amazon more content to slide into Amazon Music, a scaled-down version of which is free for Amazon Prime subscribers. Combining that content with its Alexa smart speaker also could empower the company to capture more eyes and ears in the increasingly competitive attention economy. </p> <p>The talks are reportedly ongoing and no deal has been confirmed. </p>
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When the founders who lead the ten young startups selected for the 2020 Techstars LA class begin their three month accelerator program Monday, they won't be gathering in the Mid-Wilshire office and shaking hands as every other class has done. Like the rest of us, they will be working at home because of the coronavirus. Dinners, meetings, socializing, and mentoring sessions will all be online.
"A big part of the magic of the program is the relationships that are from proximity and from everyone working together in the same space and so what we're doing is we're endeavoring to create as much as that connection in the virtual world as possible," said Anna Barber, managing director of Techstars LA.
Pod People<p><a href="https://podpeople.com/" target="_blank">Pod People</a> is a full-service podcast production and staffing agency with a network of over 700 audio professionals across the globe.</p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/o56p6c" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a> <br></p>
JoyHub<p><a href="https://www.joyhub.io/" target="_blank">JoyHub</a> 's enterprise software integrates multifamily operator systems into a single, centralized data platform. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/io9a3s" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a> </p>
Ayana Therapy<p><a href="https://www.ayanatherapy.com/" target="_blank">Ayana Therapy</a> provides online therapy for minorities with an emphasis on intersectionality. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/gdwa78" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
CLLCTVE<p><a href="http://cllctve.com/" target="_blank">CLLCTVE</a> is a platform connecting college creatives with brands targeting Gen-Z consumers. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/bgc9pp" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
Lactation Lab<p><a href="https://www.lactationlab.com/" target="_blank">Lactation Lab</a> provides breast milk analysis and personalized recommendations for mothers to optimize their child's health and nutrition. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/t0173z" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
Preveta<p><a href="https://www.preveta.com/" target="_blank">Preveta</a> is transforming cancer care by arming clinicians with data and insights to improve outcomes, and blazing a trail for providers to deliver value-based care.</p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/odhs9o" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
Shop Latinx<p><a href="https://shoplatinx.com/" target="_blank">Shop LatinX</a> is the leading fashion and beauty lifestyle brand with products designed by and for the Latinx community. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/0luryb" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
Sike Insights<p><a href="https://sikeinsights.com/" target="_blank">Sike Insights</a> powers remote teams to work better together. Our first product, Kona, is an AI-powered Slackbot that helps you communicate. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/d5ejl2" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
StatsHelix<p><a href="http://statshelix.com" target="_blank">StatsHelix</a> is a B2B gametech company focused on esports and streaming. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/j4yp3j" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
Thrive Education<p><a href="https://thrive-education.co/" target="_blank">Thrive Education</a> provides remote tele-assessments for learning differences (LDs) such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism. </p><p><a href="https://brdg.app/s/1dn2dc" target="_blank">Contact the founder >></a></p>
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