'We Stepped on the Throttle': Disney Plus Invests Big in Shows as Subscriptions Boom

'We Stepped on the Throttle': Disney Plus Invests Big in Shows as Subscriptions Boom

Even Disney CEO Bob Chapek is surprised by the success of Disney Plus.

"What we didn't realize was the non-family appeal that a service like Disney Plus would have," Chapek said Monday, speaking at a Morgan Stanley tech conference. "Over 50% of our global [subscribers] don't have kids, and that is the big difference."

In April 2019, Disney forecast it would have 60 to 90 million subscribers by 2024 for the service that launched in November of that year; today it already has over 95 million. The Star Wars and Marvel superheroes universes have complemented Disney's more traditional animated features that are aimed squarely at school-age children.

The company has ratcheted up its 2024 forecast to 150 million Disney Plus subscribers, and to 260 million including its international offering, Star.

Disney Plus' over-performance inspired a "commensurate" rise of investment in content, Chapek said. In December Disney showcased a head-spinning array of new shows and movies set to roll out in the coming months and years.

"We stepped on the throttle pretty heavily," Chapek said.

Disney also undertook a major restructuring to center the organization around streaming.

As streaming ascended, Disney's parks plummeted, shuttered by the pandemic. Once those reopen, Chapek, who previously led the parks division, said he sees huge value in the customer insight that they will bring in conjunction with streaming.

"We've never really had the two perfectly aligned where our parks are cranking and our DTC business is anything but embryonic. Well, that moment's about to come," he said. "And so we feel really enthusiastic about what's going to happen when we take one plus one and make it three."


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Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.