When Disney launched its own cable channel in 1983, it was an immediate hit with the families that were able to access it.
The Disney Channel, later renamed to just Disney Channel, was a godsend for parents, who discover that plopping the kids down to watch animated films like “Snow White” or Disney channel originals such as “ Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme” was a way to get a momentary bit of peace and quiet.
As the Disney Channel evolved and grew, it remained true to its core pitch. From cartoons like “Kim Possible” to live-action films like the “High School Musical” series, there’s always something for the kids to watch, so parents can have some time to themselves.
When Disney launched its streaming service Disney+ in 2019, it quickly became both the ultimate babysitter, as well as a core part of family movie night. (It’s always a good idea to rewatch one of the “Toy Story” films, after all.)
But while families loved the sheer depth of the catalog, when Disney+ launched, one of its main selling points was “The Mandalorian,” a big-budget live action TV series that was set in the world of “Star Wars” that was just a bit too violent for young children.
After the pandemic delayed production for a while, Disney then launched the live action series “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” spin-offs from the world conquering Marvel Cinematic Universe. Both of those series, as well as the recently aired "Moon Knight," as well as the Marvel and Star Wars films that were available to stream, were all around the PG-13 space, which indicated that Disney wasn’t just targeting families anymore.
Disney+ Isn’t Just For Kids
On its recent second quarter earnings call, CEO Bob Chapek admitted what has become obvious, that its streaming service Disney+ is now as popular with adults as it is with kids. The service added 9.2 million subscribers in the second quarter, for a total of 205 million total subscriptions. And a great deal of those new subscribers were not part of the demographic that Disney has traditionally targeted.
“It's certainly popular with families, but as a reminder, almost half of Disney+ subscribers are adults without kids,” said Chapek.
It’s a customer base that Chapek intends to further pursue.
“In recognition of Disney+'s unique ability to attract viewers from a range of demographic groups, we are selectively enhancing Disney+ with general entertainment titles designed to drive sign-ups among specific audiences and deepen engagement among those cohorts,” he said.
Both more Marvel and Disney shows are on the way, with Marvel set to premiere the series “She-Hulk” and “Ms. Marvel” this summer, as is the Star Wars event miniseries “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” (Several more Disney and Star Wars shows are in the development stage.)
But while Disney is going to continue to focus on two of its biggest properties, Chapek also said the company has plans to continue to reach adults by investing more in international content.
“Beyond targeting specific demos, we are equally enthusiastic about our growth potential in international markets. We currently have over 500 local original titles in various stages of development and production,” he noted.
“180 of those titles are slated to premiere this fiscal year, increasing to over 300 international originals per year in steady state. We believe these premium local originals, along with branded content with broad international appeal, will attract new subscribers and drive engagement.”
But while Disney+ will continue to broaden its appeal, it has no plans to leave families behind, as it recently acquired the long-running competition show “Dancing with the Stars,” which Chapek calls “a wonderful example of content that brings the whole family together.”
Disney Remains Committed To Advertiser Supported Streaming
While Disney+ is committed to servicing more demographics, Chapek also has his eye on launching an advertising-supported tier for Disney+ later this year. This move will both make the streaming service more attractive to budget conscious households, and help Disney generate enough revenue to offset the rising cost of production that the service has been dealing with.
“The Disney+ ad tier… I think this is going to give us the ability to reach an even more broad audience as we expand Disney+ across multiple price points,” he said on the call. “And using some of our other services, we can see the additive nature of an ad-driven service that enables us to keep the price lower. Of course, that's made up for by the additional revenue that we would get per user on the advertising spending.”
Chapek also noted that the company is projecting subscriber totals between 230 million to 260 million by 2024, which will help the company to “achieve profitability.”