Disney Plus Hits 5 Million App Downloads in U.K., Europe on Launch Day

Disney Plus zoomed out of gate in Europe and the U.K. on Tuesday, according to third-party data estimates — reflecting pent-up demand for the Mouse House’s streaming service and, perhaps, agita among parents looking for relief amid governmental stay-at-home directives.

On March 24, Disney Plus debuted in the U.K., Ireland, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In those seven markets, the Disney Plus app was downloaded 5 million times, according to measurement and analytics firm App Annie.

However, number of app downloads does not translate into subscribers — it doesn’t necessarily mean Disney Plus gained an incremental 5 million new paying customers. For starters, Disney Plus subscribers can download and install multiple apps on several devices: Each account can create up to seven profiles and access up to four simultaneous streams. Also, App Annie’s data covers only mobile apps, not connected-TV apps or access to the Disney Plus website (and therefore may exclude a portion of the user base).

Still, as a relative barometer, the European numbers bode well for Disney Plus to establish a substantial footprint in those markets, coming about four months after the initial Disney Plus in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. As of Feb. 3, Disney Plus had snagged 28.6 million subscribers, the media conglomerate announced.

Year-to-date in 2020, Disney Plus is the No. 7 ranked non-gaming app by consumer spending worldwide, per App Annie (trailing Tinder, YouTube, Netflix, TikTok, Tencent Video, and iQIYI). The European launch of Disney Plus should push it higher in the rankings.

There are more markets yet to come online for Disney Plus: The company pushed the launch of the streaming service in France by two weeks, to April 7, at the behest of the French government. Disney Plus India has been postponed indefinitely at this point.

Meanwhile, Disney Plus launched in Europe with lower video quality, as the company joined others like Netflix and YouTube in paring back usage during the COVID-19 outbreak. Disney said it was aiming to reduce bandwidth utilization of Disney Plus by 25% by reducing video bit rates.

And so far, Disney Plus users have been spending a considerable amount of time in the app. In December 2019, subscribers spent an average of 3 hours and 10 minutes in the app, according to App Annie. That’s compared with Netflix at 4 hours and 20 minutes and Hulu at 3 hours and 20 minutes. Again, note that the company’s data excludes viewing on TVs and computers. App Annie says its data sources include anonymized and aggregated data from more than 1 million apps, plus large consumer panels and ad networks.

The Disney Plus is the dedicated streaming home for movies and TV shows from all of the media conglomerate’s brands, including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars. The content lineup for the U.K. and Europe is much the same as in the U.S., with more than 500 films (but not including “Frozen 2” yet); about 350 series, including 30 seasons of “The Simpsons”; and a slate of 26 originals, including “The Mandalorian” from Jon Favreau.

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‘Frozen 2’ to Start Streaming on Disney Plus Three Months Early

Props to Disney+ for taking the advice of Frozen 2 and doing the next right thing! The Disney streaming service announced on Friday night that they would be adding the beloved Frozen sequel to available titles for U.S. viewers on Sunday, March 15, three months early. 

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak there have been many cancellations and postponements, but this news is a plus that many fans can get behind. The company announced the decision saying it hopes to help by “surprising families with some fun and joy during this challenging period.” 

The film will also be available on Disney+ in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand on March 17. The box office hit features the popular characters voiced by Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, and more. 

Children across the country and around the world are being kept home from school in the hopes of slowing the spread of the disease, so this new addition to the Disney+ service will hopefully help as fans continue to quarantine and practice “social distancing.”

Disneyland and Disney World theme parks and resorts have shut down and production on multiple live-action Disney films has been halted, including The Little Mermaid, Shang-Chi and The Legends of the Ten Rings, Home Alone, The Last Duel, and Nightmare Alley. And pre-production for Peter Pan & Wendy and Shrunk has also been put on hold. 

Production has also been put on hold for Disney TV Studios shows Adopted, The Big Leap, The Big Sky, The Brides, Harlem’s Kitchen, Home Economics, Kids Matter Now, My Village, Ordinary Joe, Prospect, Rebel, Thirtysomething(Else), Untitled Kapnek/holland, Valley Trash, Work Wife and Wreckage. In addition, DTS will also be suspending production on limited series Genius: Aretha for at least three weeks.

For more on how the coronavirus outbreak has impacted Hollywood, watch the clip below:  

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Disney Plus Forges Multi-Year Distribution Pact With Italy’s Telecom Italia Mobile

The Walt Disney Company and Italy’s Telecom Italia Mobile have announced a multi-year bundling deal under which the Disney Plus streaming service will be carried exclusively by the telecom’s TIMVision platform.

Starting on March 24, TIMVision will be the single Italian platform offering Disney Plus to its customers in a bundle with fiber broadband packages. TIMVision also offers its customers access to Netflix, Comcast-owned pay-TV service Sky, and to sports streamer DAZN.

Disney will be launching its standalone streaming service in Italy on March 24 as part of its European rollout.

The widely expected pact between Disney Plus and Telecom Italia is bound to boost “the strategy of TIMVision as Italy’s leading aggregator of premium content in the Italian TV industry,” TIM CEO Luigi Gubitosi said in a statement.

TIMVision exclusively carries “The Handmaid’s Tale” but not much else in terms of premium content and currently lags behind its competitors, though it is ramping up operations.

Gubitosi added that the pact is being forged “in a context where convergence between telecommunications and content will play an increasingly key role in the group’s future,” thanks to the development of ultrabroadband and 5G.

“We’re delighted to count TIM among our launch partners and look forward to bringing their customers all of the amazing storytelling available” on Disney Plus, said Kevin Mayer, chairman of The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International segment.

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Sky Italia CEO Maximo Ibarra recently announced that they will be launching their broadband offer by June 2020.

In the U.K. and Ireland, Disney has an agreement in place with Sky to bring Disney Plus to Sky’s Sky Q and Now TV streaming services.


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Disney Plus Expected to Reveal More Than 25 Million Subscribers, Dazzling the Industry

Disney has Wall Streeters and the industry eagerly awaiting the company’s quarterly earnings announcement on Tuesday, which will include the first official subscriber numbers for the Disney Plus streaming service.

Disney is expected to reveal that the service has racked up 25 million to 30 million subscribers since its Nov. 12 debut. If so, Disney Plus will mark a stunning entry in the annals of consumer entertainment product launches. It’s testament to the drawing power of Disney’s gold-plated brands and the decision in 2017 by chairman-CEO Bob Iger to go full-throttle on realigning the company to support the radical transition into direct-to-consumer distribution for its most prized content assets.

“From zero to where they are now is unbelievable,” said Michael Nathanson, veteran entertainment analyst and principal at research firm MoffettNathanson. “The company should bask in the glow of what they’ve pulled off. They didn’t play it safe. But they did the right thing for the company.”

As many as one-third of Disney Plus’ subscribers are expected to come from Verizon, which cut a deal with Disney to give a free one-year subscription to Disney Plus to all of the telco’s customers that pay for unlimited data plans. Nathanson praised that alliance as a smart move to quickly gain circulation for Disney Plus. Verizon is paying Disney for those subs, although likely at some discount from the retail $69.99 a year pricetag.

Verizon has not released specific numbers but executives said during the company’s earnings call earlier this week that it lured more wireless subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2019 than expected — its highest wireless net adds in six years — thanks in part to its Disney pact.

Verizon reported a net addition of 790,000 postpaid wireless customers, topping the average Wall Street estimate of 525,000 net adds, per FactSet. The one-year-free Disney Plus offer, available to eligible Verizon customers through June 1, 2020, was one of the factors for the lift, CFO Matt Ellis said.

Disney lived up to its reputation as a marketing machine through the Verizon deal and other consumer marketing efforts for Disney Plus. The campaign started in earnest with the company’s April 11, 2019, Investor Day presentation, which generated crucial advance buzz among Disney-philes. On day one, Disney Plus generated some 10 million sign-ups for a weeklong free trial. The conversion rate from free trial to paying customer will also be a key focus for investors.

“The execution has been incredible,” Nathanson said. At the same time, Nathanson sees Disney as taking a page from the Netflix playbook of offering the service at a consumer-friendly low price in order to quickly aggregate customers. He doesn’t see a price hike for Disney Plus from its $6.99 monthly price any time soon.

The embrace for Disney Plus will only encourage Disney to rev up its streaming distribution strategies in other sectors, such as ESPN and Hulu, he said. Disney signaled changes to come at Hulu on Friday with the news that Randy Freer, former Fox executive, is out as CEO after two years.

Although Disney’s fiscal first quarter 2020 numbers are expected to dazzle, investors will press Disney for granular detail on the pacing of new signups, the early churn rate and viewing trends, Nathanson predicted. And industry folk are hankering for updates to Disney Plus’ programming, given the popularity of “Star Wars” standalone series “The Mandalorian” and its breakout star, Baby Yoda (officially known as The Child).

Given the strong launch in the U.S., Nathanson also wonders if Disney will speed up plans to roll out Disney Plus in other big territories. Already Disney has bumped up by a week the March launch date for Disney Plus in the U.K.

Disney Plus news aside, there may be little room for upside on the stock after Tuesday’s report, even if Disney exceeds analyst forecasts. Shares already rose 1.3% Thursday after Verizon reported its Disney Plus lift.

And big as the Disney Plus subscriber figures are expected to be, investors will no doubt focus on other parts of the Mouse universe. Earnings at Disney’s studios segment should be buoyed by the last installment of its Lucasfilm trilogies, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” not to mention the hotly anticipated Disney Animation sequel “Frozen 2.”

Conversely, expect Disney’s parks and resorts segment – typically a reliable standout – to be the object of concern as coronavirus fears rattle the market.

Amid the metastasizing outbreak, Iger will likely be asked to address the prospect of temporarily shuttering more Disneyland theme parks across the world. The Shanghai and Hong Kong parks are closed as a precautionary measure to reduce the spread of the disease, but an increasing number of coronavirus cases have been confirmed in countries beyond China, threatening to impact any number of local economies while containment efforts are underway.

Guggenheim Securities Michael Morris expects that to hit parks revenue dramatically – a 75% decline in the current quarter, and 50% and 30% in the quarters following that – amid the closures and anticipated slow attendance rebound at both China-based Disneyland parks.

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