Disney Premier Access/PPV Revenue Jumped 70% to $933 Million in 2021

Disney made headlines when it generated $60 million in high-margin premium video-on-demand (or Disney+ Premier Access) revenue for the opening weekend box office release of Marvel Studios’ Black Widow.

Disney didn’t disclose further PVOD revenue until the Nov. 24 release of the media giant’s annual 10-K report. In the filing, Disney said it generated $933 million in revenue from the combined PVOD sales of Widow, Cruella, Jungle Cruise and Raya and the Last Dragon, in addition to 13 UFC pay-per-view bouts on ESPN+.

That was 70% higher revenue than the $550 million generated from the Premier Access debut of Mulan and 11 PPV UFC fights in the prior fiscal year.

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While Premier Access delivers Disney higher margins than other distribution channels, including theatrical, critics contend that PVOD undermines the movie’s theatrical potential — a mindset that led Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson to file a lawsuit against Disney alleging PVOD undermined her contractually mandated compensation. Johansson and Disney settled their disagreement out of court.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the studio would continue to explore concurrent theatrical/Premier Access releases in 2022, in addition to releasing movies in different channels depending on the movie and market conditions.

“We will always do what we believe is in the best interest of the film and the best interests of our constituents,” Chapek told investors in August.

Meanwhile, the motto “Go big or go home” appears to be Disney’s outlook for fiscal-year 2022 as it seeks to significantly ramp up spending on original content, sports rights and capital expenditures.

In line with the company putting most of its eggs into its direct-to-consumer businesses (i.e., Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, Hulu + Live TV), Disney said it expects to spend upwards of $33 billion on original content, productions and live sports rights — up about 25%, or $8 billion from FY 2021.

In the report, Disney said the increased expenditures would be driven by higher spend to support “our DTC expansion” and “generally assumes no significant disruptions to production due to COVID-19.”

Disney will again dominate the 2021 domestic box office with five of the top 12 movies in ticket sales thus far, led by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings with $224 million. The Thanksgiving weekend release of animated movie Encanto is expected to add to the studio’s haul.

The top-grossing global theatrical release in 2021 remains China’s The Battle at Lake Changjin, the nationalist war drama that has generated an impressive $888 million at the largely Asian box office.