For over-the-top platforms, the opening day tech glitch is a kind of ritual associated with success — like the screams of a rock-concert audience clamoring for an encore.
The Walt Disney Co. appears to have had that moment last Tuesday morning (Nov. 12), launch day for its highly anticipated Disney+ streaming platform. At 9 a.m. ET, website DownDetector had collected more than 8,000 reports of Disney+ tech issues — everything from spinning wheels that wouldn’t leave the screen to the inability of users just to log in.
But the problems were quickly addressed, and the opening numbers were boffo.
Disney soon put out a statement explaining that the platform had “exceeded expectations.” The next day, it put out another communiqué counting signups for the platform at 10 million with less than two full days on the market in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands.
To put the impressive benchmark in perspective, Hulu — which launched in 2007 — didn’t surpass 10 million users until 2016. Netflix, founded in 1997 as an online DVD rental outfit, didn’t add its 10 millionth customer until 2009. Notably, in June Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne projected that Disney+ wouldn’t reach 13 million subscribers until the end of 2020.
Now that it’s blown the mouse ears off launch expectations, what’s the ceiling for Disney+?
Disney’s own projections target 60 million to 90 million users after five years on the market. Some research companies benchmark the platform even higher. Morgan Stanley’s Swinburne told investors the platform could exceed 130 million users by 2024.
Certainly, more exponential subscriber growth is ahead of Disney+, as it launches in Australia and New Zealand this week. The platform will expand to Western Europe at the end of the first quarter.
Early on, Disney+ seems to have caught the wind of not only a one-month free trial and a group of hardcore Disney content fans, but also a savvy bundling strategy — how many early Disney+ subscribers were already Hulu customers signing into a $12.99-a-month bundle of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+?
The sledding from here could get more challenging, though. In April, AT&T will come to market with HBO Max, a $14.99-amonth service that will undoubtedly force at least some streaming video consumers to make hard choices in terms of which services to keep and which ones to ditch.
And in what will certainly be a Darwinian world where some major subscription streaming services simply won’t make it, it’ll come down to content.
Apple TV+, the first in this next wave of SVOD services to launch, has garnered middling reviews for its first big original series, The Morning Show and See.
Disney+’s first big original show effort — the Star Wars-themed The Mandalorian — has an 88% “fresh” score on reviews aggregation platform Rotten Tomatoes.
The reviews are similarly mixed once you drill down into them. “It's not bad. It's just small and it moves quickly, but not breathlessly,” wrote Hollywood Reporter film critic Daniel Feinberg.
Overall, though, Disney+ seems to be getting high marks. Tom’s Guide reviewer Henry T. Casey gave it four stars out of five and the review headline noted, “Netflix should be worried.”