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Disney Plus Lost Subscribers for the First Time

Members fled most in India, but the US and Canada lost accounts too.

Disney Plus has stood out as the most successful new service in the so-called "streaming wars."
Sarah Tew/CNET

Disney Plus lost 2.4 million subscribers in the three months ended Dec. 31, Disney said Wednesday, as the subscriber base of its flagship streaming service fell for the first time since the company launched it in 2019. 

Disney's deepest streaming-subscriber losses were at its Disney Plus Hotstar service, which is an Indian offering priced way lower than the company's streaming services elsewhere. There, its member base dropped by 3.8 million accounts. 

And Disney Plus also lost 200,000 subscribers in the US and Canada. But growth internationally elsewhere offset some of the declines. Overall, Disney Plus has 161.8 million subscribers as of the end of December. 

By comparison, Netflix, the biggest subscription streaming service of its kind, has amassed more than 230 million global subscribers in the decade-plus since it started streaming. But Netflix recorded its deepest subscriber losses in a decade during the first half of last year, a sign that the competition for streaming customers was stretched to a breaking point. 

Disney also noted Wednesday that Hulu subscribers grew to 48 million and that ESPN Plus membership rose to 24.9 million, both increases of 2%. 

Early on, Disney Plus proved to be the standout success of the so-called streaming wars, a period 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." 

Disney has estimated that Disney Plus will have between 215 million and 245 million global subscribers by the time the service is five years old, in late 2024. 

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