Disney+ Adds Nearly 7 Million Q4 Global Subs, Including 500,000 in the U.S.

The Walt Disney Co. Nov. 8 reported that its branded Disney+ subscription streaming service added nearly 7 million subscribers in the fourth quarter ended Sept. 30 — driven in part by access to theatrical titles Elemental, Little Mermaid and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3., the original series “Ahsoka,” and the Korean original series “Moving.”

The streamer ended the quarter with 112.6 million subscribers, excluding India’s Disney+ Hotstar, up 7% from 105.7 million subs in the previous-year period. Disney+ Hotstar, which Disney is reportedly looking to sell, lost 2.8 million subs to end the period with 37.6 million subs.

Notably, Disney’s recently-launched ad-supported Disney+ option ended the quarter with 5.2 million subs, up 2 million subs from the third quarter ended June 30.

Overall, Disney+ ended the quarter with 150.2 million subs, up nearly 3% from 146.1 million subs at the end of the same period last year.

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Hulu, of which Disney acquired 100% control earlier this month, ended the quarter with 48.5 million subs, up 200,000 subs from the previous-year period. The tally includes a gain of 300,000 Hulu + Live TV subs, and the loss of 100,000 Hulu subscription streaming subscribers, ending the quarter with 43.9 million subs from 44 million subs.

Separately, ESPN+ ended the quarter with 26 million paid subs, up 800,000 subs from 25.2 million subs last year.

Financially, Disney’s direct-to-c0nsumer business unit narrowed its operating loss 70% to $420 million on revenue of more than $5 billion, from a loss of $1.4 billion on revenue of $4.5 billion in the prior year period.

Disney plans to beta launch a bundled Disney+/Hulu option in December, with a nationwide rollout planned for the spring of 2024.

Disney+ Expanding Original Series ‘American Born Chinese’ Access to Roku, YouTube — and Hulu, ABC

 The Walt Disney Company June 21 announced it would expand distribution of Disney+ original series “American Born Chinese” beyond its proprietary streaming platform to affiliate partners, including ABC, Hulu, Roku, and on YouTube. Disney+ subscribers currently have access to all eight episodes of the first season.

The series, which has a critic score of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes where it was declared one of the best TV and Streaming Shows of 2023, reportedly presents a blend of heartfelt coming-of-age humor and exhilarating martial-arts action.

“American Born Chinese” will be made available on the following schedule:

ABC: Saturday, June 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT – Episode 1

Hulu: Monday, June 26 – Sunday, July 9 – Episodes 1-3

YouTube: Wednesday, June 21 at 9 a.m. to Sunday, July 23 – Episode 1

Roku: Monday, June 26 – Monday, July 10 – Episodes 1-3 

Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang, “American Born Chinese” chronicles the trials and tribulations of a regular American teenager whose life is forever changed when he befriends the son of a mythological god. This is the story of a young man’s battle for his own identity, told through family, comedy, and action-packed Kung-Fu, playing on aesthetics from Chinese folklore, comics and animation.

The series features an all-star international cast, including Academy Award winners Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Ben Wang (“Chang Can Dunk”), International Emmy Award Nominee Yeo Yann Yann (“Wet Season”), Chin Han (Mortal Kombat), Daniel Wu (“Reminiscence”), former Taekwondo champion Jimmy Liu and Sydney Taylor (“Just Add Magic”).

Introducing audiences to a pantheon of iconic Chinese mythical characters, are guest stars Academy Award nominee Stephanie Hsu as Shiji Niangniang, the Goddess of Stones; Ronny Chieng as unconventional monk, Ji Gong; Jimmy O. Yang as Dragon King, Ao Guang; James Hong as Jade Emperor; Leonard Wu as Niu Mowang/Bull Demon; and Poppy Liu as Princess Iron Fan. The series also welcomes Lisa Lu as soon-to-be retired acupuncturist Ni Yang and Rosalie Chiang as student activist Suzy Nakamura.

Emmy Award-winning writer/producer Kelvin Yu (“Bob’s Burgers,” “Central Park”) serves as executive producer and showrunner.  Destin Daniel Cretton (Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Short Term 12”) directs and serves as executive producer, alongside Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan (both of “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.,” “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Jumanji: The Next Level”), Erin O’Malley (“Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.”), Asher Goldstein (“Short Term 12,” “Just Mercy”) and Gene Luen Yang.

Disney CFO Christine McCarthy Stepping Down

Christine McCarthy, the Walt Disney Co.’s longtime CFO, is stepping down, citing a family medical leave. She will be replaced in the interim, beginning July 1, by Kevin Lansberry, CFO at Disney Parks and Resorts, until a permanent successor is found.

“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity [CEO] Bob [Iger] provided me to serve as CFO of this iconic company and am proud of the work my talented team has done to position Disney to capitalize on the business possibilities that lie ahead,” McCarthy said in a statement.

McCarthy, who joined Disney in 2000, became CFO in 2015 under Iger. She was reportedly instrumental in the termination of previous CEO Bob Chapek, which ushered in the return of Iger as CEO.

Her exit comes as Iger has initiated a 7,000-person employee downsizing in an effort to reduce costs as the company grapples with escalating overhead expenses related to its streaming services, which include Disney+, Disney + Hotstar in India, Star +, Hulu, Hulu + Live TV and ESPN+.

In 2021, Disney extended McCarthy’s employment contract through 2024.

“Among her many contributions to the company, one of the things I admire most about Christine is the generous mentorship she has provided to so many of her colleagues over the years, including countless women,” Iger said in a statement. “She has opened doors, created opportunities, and served as a role model for women at every level of business — not just at Disney, but around the world.”

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Former Disney Streaming Executive Rebecca Campbell Departing After 26 Years

Rebecca Campbell, chairman of international content and operations at the Walt Disney Co., is leaving the media giant in June after 26 years.

Campbell, who most-recently served as chairman of direct-to-consumer and international operations, where she oversaw the launch of Disney+ throughout Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, was also responsible for the roll-out of the Star general entertainment content collection on Disney+ and the standalone Star+ branded general entertainment streaming service in Latin America.

Rebecca Campbell

The executive’s pending exit comes after newly restored CEO Bob Iger announced a reorganization of Disney’s business into three operating units with streamlined leadership plans, in addition to $5.5 billion in companywide cost savings, including the elimination of 7,000 jobs.

Campbell said Iger asked her to stay on board until the beginning of the summer to ease the transition, which includes Michael Paull, president of DTC, now reporting to Dana Walden and Alan Bergman, co-chairs of Disney’s new entertainment business unit.

In a memo last week to staff, Campbell said she enjoyed her career at the company, and looked forward to traveling for fun and spending more time with her family.

“I will always be grateful to him for his exceptional leadership, invaluable wisdom, and cherished friendship,” she said. “And I truly believe that the organizational changes that he has announced are positioning the company for a very bright future.”

Disney Restructures Business Into Three Operating Units, Announces 7,000 Job Cuts

The Walt Disney Co. Feb. 8 announced it has restructured internal operations to return management control, accountability and fiscal result responsibility to content creators through the establishment of three core business units: Disney Entertainment, ESPN, and Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

Speaking on the fiscal call, CEO Bob Iger, who late last year replaced his successor Bob Chapek as chief executive, said the restructuring would include the elimination of 7,000 jobs worldwide as part of $5.5 billion in projected cost savings.

“While this is necessary to address the challenges we are facing today, I do not make this decision lightly,” Iger said. “I have enormous respect and appreciation for the talent and dedication of our employees worldwide and I am mindful of the personal impact of these changes.”

Alan Bergman and Dana Walden have been named co-chairmen of Disney Entertainment, which includes Disney Studios, Disney+, Hulu and television operations worldwide.

Jimmy Pitaro will continue as chairman of ESPN, which includes ESPN networks and the ESPN+ streaming service. Josh D’Amaro continues as chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

Iger said Disney’s mission statement remains driven by “great storytelling and creativity,” which he said requires returning entertainment operational control to content creators.

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Content teams will now be in charge of determining what content is created, how it is distributed and monetized, and how it is marketed. Managing costs, maximizing revenue and driving growth from the content being created will be the teams’ respective responsibility, according to Iger.

“Virtually every dollar we earn, every transaction, every interaction with our consumers emanates from something created,” Iger said. “I’ve always believed that the best way to spur great creativity, is to make sure the people who are managing the creative processes feel empowered.”

Mill Creek Entertainment Inks New Home Entertainment Licensing Agreement With Disney

Mill Creek Entertainment, a division of Alliance Entertainment Holding Corporation, Jan. 30 announced it has signed a new home entertainment licensing agreement with The Walt Disney Co.

In the multiyear agreement, Distribution Solutions, a division of Alliance, will distribute select Blu-ray Disc and DVD live-action movies and television shows from the ABC Signature, 20th Television, Hollywood Pictures, Touchstone Pictures and 20th Century Studios libraries.

“Mill Creek will assume the role of vendor of record on certain existing titles,” Jeff Hayne, SVP of acquisitions and production at Mill Creek, said in a statement.

Mill Creek and Alliance have established a network of physical and e-commerce retailers nationwide, including several which feature branded proprietary fixtures for DVD and Blu-ray titles.

“We have built three great divisions to…drive sales of physical video product by incorporating Mill Creek for licensing and production, Distribution Solutions for retail and bulk distribution, and Alliance Entertainment for one-stop sales and ecommerce fulfillment,” said Jeff Walker, CEO of Alliance Entertainment.

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Disney Exploring Membership Program Combining Streaming, Theme Parks, Consumer Products

The Walt Disney Co. is reportedly considering offering consumers a branded membership program that would meld its Disney+ streaming video platform with theme parks, resorts, consumer products and other company businesses.

First disclosed by The Wall Street Journal, which cited internal sources, the membership plan would try to emulate the Amazon Prime concept that affords members with free access to streaming video, music, reading, games and two-day shipping, among other perks.

The unnamed plan is still in its infancy but seeks to cross-promote Disney brands to consumers, while softening the escalating retail price of some individual properties such as the admission price to Disneyland.

“Technology is giving us new ways to customize and personalize the consumer experience so that we are delivering entertainment, experiences and products that are most relevant to each of our guests,” Kristina Schake, senior EVP and chief communications officer at Disney, said in a statement. “A membership program is just one of the exciting ideas that is being explored.”

While recent price hikes at Disney’s theme parks led to record quarterly operating profit ($1.65 billion) and revenue ($5.42 billion) despite lower attendance, the membership program, for example, could offer hotel, food and parking discounts.

Membership programs aren’t new to Disney, which has long offered consumers annual passport options to theme parks. The company currently markets the annual D23 Official Fan Club platform (priced from $99.99) that affords consumers access to exclusive events, merchandise and three-year membership to Disney+.

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In December, Disney will roll out its previously announced Disney+ price hikes and ad supported SVOD option (Disney+ Basic), upping the Disney+ Premium (without ads) monthly fee three dollars to $10.99 and $109.99 annually. The ad-supported Basic plan will cost $7.99 — the same price as the current Disney+ subscription fee.

“With our new ad-supported Disney+ offering and an expanded lineup of plans across our entire streaming portfolio, we will be providing greater consumer choice at a variety of price points to cater to the diverse needs of our viewers and appeal to an even broader audience,” Kareem Daniel, chairman of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, said in a statement last month.

Disney Extends CEO Bob Chapek’s Contract Three Years, Includes $20 Million Annual Bonus Incentive

In a major show of confidence, The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors June 28 extended CEO Bob Chapek’s term of employment agreement for three years, beginning from July 1.

The employment agreement will be amended to provide that Chapek will be granted a long-term incentive award having a target value of not less than $20 million annually. The proportion of his long-term incentive award comprised of performance-based restricted stock units will be increased to 60%.

Disney said the largely stock-based bonus incentives do not guarantee Chapek any minimum amount of compensation. The actual amounts payable to the former home entertainment executive in respect of such opportunities will be determined based on the extent to which any performance conditions and/or service conditions applicable to such awards are satisfied and on the value of the Disney’s stock.

Indeed, Chapek may receive compensation in respect of any such award that is greater or less than the stated target value, depending on whether, and to what extent, the applicable performance and other conditions are satisfied, and on the value of the media giant’s stock.

The new employment contract does not alter Chapek’s existing employment agreement, including his $2.5 million base salary.

Since being named CEO in February 2020, Chapek has weathered a pandemic, political issues in Florida, mixed up the theatrical window and help broaden the reach of the Disney+ subscription streaming service globally, among other accomplishments.

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Disney Board Backs Bob Chapek Following Executive Ouster

Disney’s board of directors issued a formal vote of confidence for CEO Bob Chapek after the former home entertainment executive abruptly fired Peter Rice, the media giant’s TV boss. Rice, who came to Disney in the $71.3 billion Fox acquisition, was reportedly seen as a possible successor to Chapek, whose contract comes up next February.

In a statement, Disney board chairwoman Susan Arnold said the strength of The Walt Disney Company’s businesses coming out of the pandemic remain a testament to Chapek’s leadership and vision for the company’s future.

“In this important time of business growth and transformation, we are committed to keeping Disney on the successful path it is on today, and Bob and his leadership team have the support and confidence of the board,” Arnold wrote.

The vote of confidence comes as Disney’s stock remains at a two-year low, and Chapek deals with the fallout of his controversial handling of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education legislation. Florida lawmakers have passed legislation that would strip Disney of its 55-year-old self-governing status in the state next year.

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Interpret: Disney+ Subs More Amenable to Ad-Supported Content

Disney+ subscribers are more amenable to ad-based content than the general population, according to Interpret data, making the company well-positioned as it plans to introduce a lower-priced, ad-supported subscription tier for its digital streaming video service.

Interpret’s VideoWatch data shows that 55% of Disney+ viewers are already consuming content on ad-supported services, compared with 44% of the general population.

“When Disney first entered the subscription OTT space, it redefined the benchmarks for success for a new streaming service,” Brett Sappington, VP at Interpret, said in a statement. “Prior to its entry, companies were pleased to exceed 1 or 2 million subscribers. When Disney was able to quickly capture millions of customers, they set a high bar for others to reach. The same could happen in the ad-supported streaming space as well. With its large current subscribership, a known content brand, and existing relationships with advertisers through its television business, Disney+ is well positioned for success with an ad-supported tier.”