The Disney Company disclosed that its flagship streaming service, Disney+, experienced a decline of 4 million subscribers within the first quarter of this year. While this decline can be attributed to cost-saving measures, Disney+ also managed to curtail its losses by $400 million.
As the streaming market expands and the traditional film and television industry faces contraction, the home of iconic franchises such as Mickey Mouse, Star Wars, and Marvel movies finds itself under mounting pressure to transform its streaming business into a profitable venture.
Disney+ Strives to Adapt in an Evolving Streaming Landscape
The news of the subscriber loss had an immediate impact on Disney's stock, with a decline of approximately 5 percent in after-hours trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The majority of the subscriber decline stemmed from the Asian service Hotstar, which lost streaming rights to Indian cricket matches last year. Furthermore, Disney+ also witnessed a loss of approximately 300,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada following a subscription price hike.
Despite these challenges, Disney's streaming business managed to reduce its operating losses by $659 million in the first three months of the year, a substantial improvement compared to the previous quarter's loss of $1 billion.
Disney CEO Bob Iger highlighted the significance of strategic changes implemented throughout the company, emphasizing the commitment to achieve sustainable growth and success. Iger expressed optimism about the future profitability of Disney+, stating, "We're at a turning point and will become profitable by next year." Iger further elaborated on the recent achievements and ongoing endeavors, stating, "We're pleased with our accomplishments this quarter, including the improved financial performance of our streaming business, which reflects the strategic changes we've been making throughout the company to realign Disney for sustained growth and success.
From movies to television, to sports, news, and our theme parks, we continue to deliver for consumers while establishing a more efficient, coordinated, and streamlined approach to our operations."
Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for Disney's Streaming Business
Earlier this year, Disney faced its first decline in subscriber numbers, leading to layoffs affecting 700 employees.
This development comes amidst a broader context of significant unrest in the television and film industry. Thousands of Hollywood writers recently initiated a strike, the first of its kind in 15 years, demanding improved wages and working conditions as the industry adapts to the dominance of streaming platforms.
The previous strike, occurring in 2007, lasted for 100 days and incurred losses amounting to $2 billion. Disney's Chief Financial Officer, Christine McCarthy, declined to disclose the potential cost of the ongoing strike on the company.
However, it is known that several Disney projects, including those intended for the Disney+ service, have already been shelved. Although Disney+ has garnered nearly 158 million subscribers worldwide, it still trails behind Netflix, which boasts a substantial subscriber base of 232.5 million.
The competitive landscape and evolving consumer preferences pose both challenges and opportunities for Disney as it navigates the complex streaming industry.