It's a strange time right now. That goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Public gatherings are canceled, and in many cases, prohibited. Millions of people are working from home. Sporting events are canceled. Churches and restaurants and parks are all closed. So are movie theaters. And theme parks.
This makes it a particularly challenging time to be Disney. It's hard to run a successful media and entertainment company when your three biggest profit generators--live sports, theme parks, and studio films--are all at a standstill. The company has already pushed back theatrical releases for some of its most highly anticipated films and closed its parks for the foreseeable future.
Then again, Disney does have one thing going for it, and it turns out to be exactly the good news it needs right now.
Disney+ has signed up more than 50 million subscribers since its launch back in what seems like ages ago but was really just November 2019. Five months, that's all it took. When it launched Disney+, the company estimated it would sign up an ambitious 60-90 million users--by 2024.
That's right, Disney+ has almost reached its five-year goal in five months.
We already knew the streaming service that hosts Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, Discovery, and the Disney animated classics many of us grew up on was doing well. It signed up 10 million users on its first day. By its February earnings report, it had 28.6 million. Now, less than two months later, it has nearly doubled that total.
For comparison, Netflix has about 150 million paying subscribers. It's also been streaming for a decade. (To be fair, Disney's numbers include customers who get the service for free with a Verizon Unlimited plan.)
One of the byproducts of the chaos we live in right now is that it's very challenging to predict just about anything. That said, it's not much of a leap to assume the very events that have shuttered most of the rest of Disney's business are the same ones that have made Disney+ a hit. People are staying at home and watching streaming services a lot.
Streaming aggregator Reelgood released data that says streaming playback is up 101 percent from the first week of March. In addition to new Disney+ subscribers, Netflix's hit Tiger King: Murder, Madness and Mayhem has been viewed by more than 34 million viewers in the U.S. in just 10 days.
Reelgood says that half of that demand comes during what would otherwise be normal working hours, which makes total sense. Try getting some work done with four kids whose school year ended three months early. Movie time to the rescue.
Obviously no one at Disney saw this coming when the company decided to launch a streaming service of its own. In hindsight, however, it looks like a pretty great idea. Great ideas always look great in hindsight. At the time, they just look like big bets.
The thing is, you can't necessarily tell the difference. That means your job is to take care of your team and your customers right now, but also to look past the temporary conditions around you and make plans for the long run. Because the only big bets that can possibly pay off in the future are the ones you make now.