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Disney, Staggered by Pandemic, Sees a Streaming Boom

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The company lost $4.7 billion in the latest quarter, but also reported that Disney+ has about 60.5 million subscribers after nine months of operation.
The Walt Disney Company reported doomsday financial results on Tuesday as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and a television-related write-down, with net quarterly losses totaling $4.72 billion. But Disney’s newest and, as far as many investors are concerned, most important business — streaming — experienced blockbuster growth as people quarantined at home. Disney said it had more than 100 million subscribers worldwide across its Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ streaming services. Powered by the release of “Hamilton,” Disney+ has about 60.5 million by itself, hitting the low end of its initial five-year goal after only nine months in operation. To further strengthen its streaming business, Disney said that it would bypass theaters in the United States, Canada and part of Europe and make “Mulan” — a $200 million film — available to Disney+ subscribers on a premium basis. Indefinite access will cost $30 on top of Disney+ membership and start on Sept.4. “Mulan” had been scheduled for release in theaters worldwide in March. Disney said it would still release the live-action movie in countries where theaters are open but Disney+ is not available. That includes China, where the film’s story takes place. “The tremendous success of Disney+ in less than a year clearly establishes us as a major force in global direct-to-consumer space,” Bob Chapek, Disney’s chief executive, told analysts on a conference call. “We are looking at ‘Mulan’ as a one-off as opposed to a new windowing model.” Mr. Chapek added, however, that Disney was “excited” to discover how a major film might perform in online release. Robert A. Iger, Disney’s executive chairman and former chief executive, did not participate in the call, his first such absence since naming Mr. Chapek chief in February. Disney also announced that it would introduce a new general entertainment subscription streaming service overseas. It will be called Star, arrive next year and offer programming from Disney properties like ABC, FX, Freeform, Searchlight and 20th Century Studios, which Disney bought from Rupert Murdoch last year. As such, Disney will not pursue an international rollout of Hulu, which is available only in the United States.

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