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Disney Plus hits 103.6 million subscribers in 17 months

Disney says it added 8.7 million new subscribers since the year's start, as its Marvel original shows WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiered.

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Disney Plus has stood out as the most successful new service in the so-called streaming wars.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Disney Plus grew to 103.6 subscribers as of April 3, Disney said Thursday in its fiscal second-quarter report, up from just 33 million a year earlier. It added a total of 8.7 million more members since the start of this year, a period when its first Marvel original series, WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, debuted on the service. 

By comparison, Netflix, the biggest subscription video service in the world, has amassed more than 207 million global subscribers in the decade-plus since it started streaming. Disney Plus launched just a year and half ago, in November 2019.

But the latest growth marks a deceleration of Disney Plus' jet-fueled growth in its first year. Disney Plus subscribers were up 9.2% in the latest period compared with the previous three months. But Disney Plus' sequential growth had been stronger previously, up 29% and 28% in the two quarters before this. 

Disney Plus has proved to be the standout success of the so-called streaming wars, a period over the last year and a half when seemingly every major media company (and some tech ones) rolled out their own streaming-video services. Disney Plus' growth has far outstripped that of all the new competitors from AppleHBONBCUniversalDiscovery and others. One media analyst called Disney Plus "one of the greatest product launches of all time." 

And the popularity of Disney Plus has far outstripped Disney's own initial predictions too. The company first projected Disney Plus would reach between 60 million and 90 million subscribers about five years after launch. Now it estimates that Disney Plus will have between 230 million and 260 million global subscribers by the time the service is 5 years old, in late 2024. 

Not all Disney Plus subscribers are created equal. In Europe and in India, Disney Plus is bundled as part of a broader streaming offering. And in countries like India, the price of a subscription is a fraction of what it costs in other markets of the world. 

Disney also noted that Hulu subscribers grew to 41.6 million and ESPN Plus membership rose to 13.8 million. 

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