Disney+ is adding subscribers much faster than expected

As popular as he is cute.
As popular as he is cute.
Image: Disney
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Baby Yoda is even more popular than we thought.

Disney+ has 28.6 million subscribers as of Feb. 3, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced today on the company’s first-quarter 2020 earnings call. (Disney’s 2019 fiscal year ended in September.) Analysts were expecting between 20 and 25 million subscribers for the nascent streaming service.

The November launch of the platform, bolstered by the series The Mandalorian, “exceeded even our greatest expectations,” Iger said. He boasted the Star Wars TV show is a “bona fide hit and a cultural phenomenon,” but did not provide specific viewership numbers. The Mandalorian is set to return for a second season in October.

Disney+ added 2.1 million subscribers in January alone, after The Mandalorian ended its first season on Dec. 27. That figure should be encouraging to Disney. It proves the service still grew (albeit at a much slower rate) even without a new tentpole release.

But as Disney quickly expands its streaming offering into other countries, it will need more exciting original shows and films to keep up with growth. It is currently available only in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. It will launch in Western Europe on March 24, India on March 29, and then in other European countries later in 2020.

To that end, Disney will release three new shows featuring Marvel characters in the near future: Falcon and the Winter Soldier in August, WandaVision in December, and Loki at an undetermined date. Iger said storylines on these shows will “integrate across platforms”—meaning they will factor into Disney’s movie universe, past, present, and future. The company aired a trailer for the Marvel series during the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

Disney expects Disney+ will have between 60 and 90 million subscribers worldwide by 2024—the same year it thinks the service will become profitable. The majority of those subscribers will be outside the US, the company forecasts.

Netflix has 61 million subscribers in the US and 167 million around the world. Executives there last month blamed its slowing US growth in part on “US competitive launches,” which was code for the emergence of Disney+.

The impressive subscriber numbers were exactly what Disney needed as it focuses more on streaming as a large part of its business. But it is still early days.

Elsewhere within the Disney ecosystem, Iger admitted the film studio is not going to have as big of a 2020 as it did a 2019, when it broke virtually every box-office record in existence (thanks to Avengers: Endgame, Frozen 2, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and more). That makes the global rollout of Disney+ all the more important.