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Disney Plus hits 28.6 million subscribers, a massive haul for a new service

Disney pulled off "one of the greatest product launches of all time," an analyst says.

Disney Plus' fairy-tale dreams may come true sooner than Disney thought: Disney Plus has signed up 28.6 million people less than three months after the service rolled out, Disney said Tuesday. To put that in context, Disney initially expected Disney Plus would take five years to reach between 60 million and 90 million subscribers. In less than 90 days, it's almost halfway to crossing that threshold. 

"The company and their management team must be given credit for pulling off one of the greatest product launches of all time," MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson said Wednesday in a note recapping the results. 

By comparison, Netflix, the biggest subscription video service in the world, has 167 million global subscribers, with 61 million of them in the US. 

Disney said Disney Plus had 28.6 million members as of Monday, figures released as part of the company's earnings report. When Disney's latest quarter closed on Dec. 28 -- not long after the finale of the service's marquee original series The Mandalorian -- Disney Plus had 26.5 million members. Disney Plus launched Nov. 12 in the US, Canada and the Netherlands. It has since widened to Australia and New Zealand, and its next big rollout will be to major Western European markets on March 24 and India on March 29.

Disney Plus is the entertainment giant's online hub for streaming almost everything it produces, including Star WarsMarvelPixar and all the family-friendly movies and animation from Disney itself, plus acquired favorites like The Simpsons. It's also perhaps the most high-profile example of traditional Hollywood throwing its fortunes in with streaming, competing against the likes of NetflixAmazon and a new wave of rivals like Apple TV PlusHBO Max and Peacock. With billions of dollars of investment at play, their competitive wins and losses will shape the future of television -- and affect how you're able to watch your favorites. 

Disney Plus has shown other early signs of popularity. In little more than a day after it first launched, Disney said the service registered more than 10 million sign-ups, and it was 2019's top trending Google search term.  

Disney didn't specify the number of Disney Plus subscribers who were pulled in through a deal with Verizon that gave the carrier's unlimited wireless customers a year's subscription free. But it did say the average Disney Plus subscriber is paying $5.56 a month. In the US, a regular Disney Plus membership costs $7 a month, but bundles, annual memberships and prelaunch promotional deals lowered the price for some members. 

Hulu, which operates only in the US, has 30.4 million members. That's up from 28.5 million in November right before the launch of Disney Plus. When Disney Plus launched, the company began bundling its three streaming services -- Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus -- for $13 a month, a $5 discount.

Originally published Feb. 4. 
Update, Feb. 5: Adds analyst's comment. 

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