Disney Plus has surpassed 50 million subscribers in the five months since it launched, the company said Wednesday. By comparison, Netflix -- the biggest subscription video service in the world -- had 167 million global subscribers as of the end of last year. That's three times the size of Disney Plus now, but Netflix began streaming more than a decade ago.
Disney Plus has proven to be one of last year's biggest launches, with one media analyst calling it "one of the greatest product launches of all time." When Disney initially set expectations for how Disney Plus would grow, the company predicted it would take five years to reach between 60 million and 90 million subscribers. But the service registered more than 10 million sign-ups in little more than a day after it launched the US and the Netherlands in November. By three months, it had more than 28 million members.
It has since expanded to 14 total countries, including India and much of Western Europe. Disney noted Wednesday that 8 million of its subscribers are in India, where the service combined with the existing Hotstar streaming service there.
The coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19, has also spurred more demand for streaming in recent weeks. As the virus spread rapidly around the world into a pandemic, it has shuttered swaths of the entertainment industry and confined people globally to their homes. That's resulted in spikes in video streaming.
Disney has turned to its streaming service as a tool to cope with the coronavirus disruptions to its normal movie business. With movie theaters shuttered around the world, it put Pixar's Onward on Disney Plus last week less than a month after the film's theatrical release. Later the same day, Disney said it'll put its sci-fi fantasy Artemis Fowl straight onto Disney Plus rather than saving it for release in theaters once cinemas reopen.
Disney Plus is perhaps the most high-profile example of traditional Hollywood throwing its fortunes in with streaming, competing against the likes of Netflix, Amazon and a new wave of rivals like Apple TV Plus, HBO 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 favorite things.
"We're truly humbled that Disney Plus is resonating with millions around the globe, and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion throughout Western Europe and into Japan and all of Latin America later this year," said Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney's direct-to-consumer division -- which runs Disney Plus -- in a statement. "Great storytelling inspires and uplifts, and we are in the fortunate position of being able to deliver a vast array of great entertainment rooted in joy and optimism on Disney Plus."