Disney isn’t having the most magical year so far.
Its last animated movie, Strange World (2022), was a flop. There’s the ongoing battle between Disney and DeSantis in Florida. A writers’ strike is halting creative production. And let’s not forget the thousands of layoffs happening across the company, including at Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Now, to add another crisis to the mix, it has been revealed that Disney has been dealt another blow.
In the ongoing saga between Disney and DeSantis, Disney CEO Bob Iger recently made some interesting remarks about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, affirming that The Walt Disney Company is being punished for free speech.
In the most recent Disney earnings call on May 10, Iger stated: “First of all, the case that we filed last month made our position and the facts very clear. This is about one thing and one thing only, and that’s retaliating against us for taking a position about pending legislation. And we believe that in us taking that position we are merely exercising our right to free speech.”
He ended by saying: “So I’m going to finish […] by asking one question: Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?” Many considered this a threat by CEO Bob Iger to pull investments from Florida.
Now, Disney has been dealt a different kind of blow – the continued subscriber declines for its streaming service Disney+.
A Disney+ Streaming Crisis
Disney+ has brought fans a “whole new world” of television shows and movies from Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and more since its launch back in 2019. The streamer has had some big hits for Disney, from the premieres of Pixar’s Turning Red (2022) and Peter Pan & Wendy (2023) to fan-favorite Grogu (or Baby Yoda) from The Mandalorian.
And though long-running comedy series The Simpsons and Star Wars series Andor have proven popular on Disney’s subscription streaming service, it seems Disney+ has suffered another second straight quarterly decline during the first three months of the year, losing a whopping 4 million subscribers.
The news comes after Disney+ lost a net 2.4 million subscribers in the last three months of 2022, its first decline in subscribers since its launch.
The Hotstar Key
Bob Iger launched Disney+ on November 12, 2019, in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands, and expanded it to Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico a week later. It became available in Europe in March 2020 and then in India in April as Disney+ Hotstar.
And it appears it’s the Indian version of the service where the 4 million drop in subscribers has happened. Disney is currently dealing with the fallout from losing streaming rights to the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket games, which had aired on the Indian version of the service, Disney+ Hotstar.
Subscriptions in India were down 4.6 million, equating to an 8% loss of total subscribers to Hotstar. In the United States and Canada, Disney+ saw only a 300,000 subscriber loss, with The Mandalorian Season 3 not getting the best reviews. The streaming service now has 46.3 million subscribers in North America
Worldwide, Disney+ has 157.8 million subscribers, second only to Netflix. But that’s far off the more than 163 million Wall Street had been anticipating for this quarter.
The IPL games have been on Hotstar since 2019 and were a critical part of Disney’s global expansion as a streaming network. The domestic market is saturated with streaming choices like Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max, but the international market offers huge opportunities for subscription growth.
To put it simply, a third of Disney+’s subscribers are in India, so keeping the cricket game rights was essential for Disney (last year, Disney+ Hotstar subscriptions rose by 8 million in anticipation of the IPL season).
We’ll have to wait and see what the India market looks like in the next quarterly earnings call, but amid the feud with Governor DeSantis, the writers’ strike, and thousands of layoffs across the company, it seems everything isn’t so “magical” at The Walt Disney Company right now.