Disney Plus Grows to 137.7M Members After Netflix's Subscriber Skid

Netflix shook Hollywood's confidence in streaming last month when it reported its first subscriber drop in a decade.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Disney Plus grew to 137.7 million subscribers as of April 2, Disney said Wednesday. That's a 33% increase from a year earlier, but more importantly it shows Disney Plus subscriber growth held up relatively well in its latest quarter -- climbing by 7.9 million from the previous three months -- soon after world leader Netflix shocked Hollywood with its first membership decline in a decade. 

Netflix, the biggest subscription video service globally, has amassed 221 million subscribers, but last month it reported that its subscriber ranks shrank by 200,000 accounts in the first three months of this year -- the company's first overall decline in membership since the days when DVDs-by-mail were still a meaningful part of its business. Netflix's decline, and its expectation to lose even more members before the middle of the year, has buffeted Hollywood's confidence in streaming as the path to a sustainable future. 

Disney Plus' latest net increase of 7.9 million subscribers in the latest period is more sedate than the 11.7 million jump in the previous one, but it's still stronger than the 2.1 million additions in the quarter before that. Disney also noted that Hulu subscribers grew to 45.6 million and that ESPN Plus membership rose to 22.3 million. 

Up until last month, Netflix's years of unflagging growth pushed nearly all of Hollywood's major media companies to pour billions of dollars into their own streaming operations. These so-called streaming wars brought about a wave of new services, including Apple TV PlusHBO MaxPeacockParamount Plus and, of course, Disney Plus.  

This headlong dive into streaming has profound implications for the future of Hollywood, but it has complicated how many services people must use -- and pay for -- to watch their favorite shows and movies online. 

Early on, Disney Plus proved to be the standout success of the so-called streaming wars. Disney Plus' growth has outstripped that of all the new competitors, with one media analyst calling Disney Plus "one of the greatest product launches of all time." 

Disney has forecast that Disney Plus will have between 230 million and 260 million global subscribers by the time the service is five years old, in late 2024. 

Not all Disney Plus subscribers are created equal. In Europe and 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. 

Correction, 2:58 p.m. PT: The original version of this story reported an incorrect percentage increase in Disney Plus' subscribers from a year earlier. The increase was 33%.