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Disney Plus Subscriber Growth to Slow in September Quarter, CEO Bob Chapek Says

·3 min read

Disney Plus global paid subscribers will increase by “low single-digit millions of subscribers” for the quarter ending September 2021, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said — marking a slowdown from recent periods for the Mouse House’s flagship streamer.

Sub growth in Disney Plus core markets (excluding Hotstar) will continue both domestically and internationally in the current period, “but we hit some headwinds,” Chapek said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference Tuesday.

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Chapek’s disclosure that Disney Plus will slow down in the current quarter, which is Disney’s FY Q4 2021, comes after the direct-to-consumer service rebounded in the second calendar quarter of the year and topped Wall Street estimates. Disney Plus netted 12.4 million net new subscribers to stand at 116 million worldwide as of July 3.

For Disney Plus, “the quarter-to-quarter business is not linear,” Chapek said. “What we are finding out, as you’ve seen from our last several quarters in terms of our earnings, is that these numbers tend to be a lot noisier than a straight line.”

Among the reasons for the Disney Plus slowdown in the September 2021 quarter, Chapek cited the impact of COVID-induced production delays. However, he added, the COVID delays are “very short term.” Currently, Walt Disney Studios has 61 new movies and 17 series in production and the Disney TV group has hundreds of programs in production. In addition, Disney has encountered challenges “mobilizing partners” for the launch in Latin America of the Star Plus service (which includes sports and entertainment content), he said.

The Mouse House raised projections at the end of last year for Disney Pus: It expects Disney Plus to have between 230 million and 260 million total paid subscribers by the end of fiscal year 2024.

On Nov. 12, the media conglomerate is hosting “Disney Plus Day,” which will include a new wave of content being released and new promotional offers for consumers. “It will be this ultimate crescendo of everything that’s magical about the Walt Disney Company, and really starting to use Disney Plus as this companywide platform that goes beyond a movie service.”

Also during his session at the Communacopia conference, Chapek acknowledged that ESPN is looking to expand its move into sports wagering.

“Our fans are really interested in sports betting,” as are league partners, Chapek said. “So we’re interested in sports betting…. Strategically, what sports betting gives us is the ability to appeal to a much younger sports fan viewer, who can be very strong in their affinity for those sports.”

Chapek also alluded to Disney’s legal battle with “Black Widow” star Scarlett Johansson, who alleged she lost out on tens of millions of dollars because of the simultaneous release in theaters and premium streaming (although he didn’t identify Johansson by name). “There’s a bit of a reset going on right now” with respect to Disney’s talent deals from here on out that will need to reflect different movie windowing strategies, Chapek said.

“We believe our talent is our most important asset… As we always have, we will compensate them fairly per the terms of the contracts that they agreed to us with,” he said.

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