Disney crosses streaming milestone of 100 million Disney+ subscribers

The company aims to open California parks in late April as well as send out cruise ships in the fall, its chief executive says

Two visitors enter Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Chapek, said Tuesday that Disneyland Resort will likely reopen by late April. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Walt Disney Company's streaming platform Disney+ surpassed 100 million paying subscribers mark across 59 countries just 16 months after it launched operations.

Disney+, which saw its subscriber base expand to 87 million paying members in the first year of operations, is fast emerging as one of main challengers to the global dominance of Netflix that boasts more than 200 million customers.

"The enormous success of Disney+ … has inspired us to be even more ambitious, and to significantly increase our investment in the development of high-quality content," Walt Disney's chief executive, Bob Chapek, said in a statement to the company's virtual meeting of shareholders on Tuesday.

“In fact, we set a target of 100+ new titles per year.”

Disney+ is home for movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. It is available on most internet-connected devices and offers programming including films, documentaries, animated series and short-form content. It also exclusively streams films from The Walt Disney Studios.

“Our direct-to-consumer business is the company’s top priority, and our robust pipeline of content will continue to fuel its growth,” Mr Chapek said.

The service was launched in the US in November 2019 before becoming available to viewers in Canada, Australia Singapore, Mexico, Japan and India. Last September, the company rolled out its services to additional European markets, launched Disney+Hotstar in Indonesia and started Disney+ streaming in Latin American markets in November. Disney plans additional launches in a number of Asia-Pacific territories this year, according to its 2020 annual report.

The service has yet to be rolled out in the Middle East where Netflix competes with regional streaming platforms including OSN and Starzplay.

Walt Disney hopes to reopen its California theme parks to limited attendance in late April, Reuters reported, citing Mr Chapek. The parks were closed a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

California officials have set guidelines that allow for theme parks in the state to reopen as soon as April 1. However, Mr Chapek said it would take a few weeks to call back 10,000 furloughed employees to its two theme parks at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and train them in new virus safety procedures.

Disney may also be able to resume some cruise ship operations in the fall. The company is hoping for a comeback at cinemas this year and intends to release Marvel movie Black Widow in theatres on May 7, Mr Chapek said.

Disney’s executive compensation plan was also approved at the meeting with 68 per cent votes in favour, a contrast from three years ago when investors rejected the plan, according to Bloomberg.

Mr Chapek, 61, earned $14.2 million in the last fiscal year, less than the $21.9m his predecessor Bob Iger earned in his first year as chief executive in 2006. Disney has eliminated bonuses for its mostly highly compensated executives in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.