Will Disney+ conquer Europe?

After four-and-a-half long months of Baby Yoda memes, Disney+ has finally landed in Western Europe (save for the Netherlands which has had the service since November and France where the launch has been pushed back by two weeks). And though nobody would wish for a pandemic, the rapid spread of coronavirus across Europe has left families housebound, watching more TV than ever, and looking for a way to keep the younger members of the household entertained.

Mark Inskip, CEO UK & Ireland of Kantar’s media division, says: “With the streaming wars ongoing – and the COVID-19 pandemic driving many indoors – the launch of Disney’s ‘Disney+’ streaming service comes at a very interesting time for the industry and for consumers alike.”

The analyst goes on to say that awareness is already at a good place in the UK, with 72% of households that already use VOD services saying that they were already familiar with Disney’s new streamer.

The perception that the current situation will drive demand is one that also shared by other analysts, with Omdia analysts Tim Westcott, Irina Kornilova, Max Signorelli & Fateha Begum writing: “The European launch of Disney+ comes at an unprecedented time as its new markets face social and economic restrictions from local governments due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As workplaces and schools close, consumers across all demographics will be increasingly remaining at home. Despite the direct economic challenges this is causing, Omdia believes that this will serve to increase demand for Disney+ at launch, especially for its pre-order package.”

The Mandalorian

That pre-order package offered the service for £49.99 for a year, but it’s regular pricing of £5.99/€6.99/CHF 8.90 per month and £59.99/€69.99/CHF 99 per annum is significantly cheaper than competitor Netflix.

With over 500 films and 350 series spanning the extensive Disney library, the service should certainly provide ample entertainment, and though we are still in the ‘free trial period’ plenty have expressed an interest in at least trying it out.

According to a third-party estimate from App Annie, the Disney+ app was downloaded over 5 million times in its first 24 hours in the UK, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. That figure even surpasses the US launch, where the app was only downloaded three million times in the day following its launch.

While many users are likely to be frustrated by the company’s decision to launch the episodes of its original series one week at a time, (despite them being available in full in other markets), the hours of other content available should be enough to keep them occupied.

Of course we will have to wait until the release of Disney’s quarterly results in May – though headlines from the D2C business will almost certainly take a back seat to the coronavirus which is costing the company an estimated US$300,000-US$350,000 a day between its halted film and TV production and indefinitely shuttered theme parks around the globe.

But regardless of the coronavirus, that aforementioned App Annie report says that this initial adoption would indicate that the service’s success should be on a par with the US (which saw 28.6 million subscribers sign up within the first four months) and that this would make “Disney+ one of the largest streaming services by monthly active users in every European market it launched in.”

What will also help adoption rates are the large number of distribution deals that Disney has signed across Europe. These range from arrangements that will see the app appear on set top boxes – as is the case with Sky in the UK, TIM in Italy and Telefónica’s Movistar in Spain – to deals which offer an extended free period to end-users – both O2 in the UK and Deutsche Telekom in Germany are giving their customers six months of Disney+ at no cost.

And despite the French launch being delayed, Canal+ has unveiled a range of bundles which include the streaming service. These include a limited €19.99 per month bundle of Canal+ and Disney+ for two years and a Cine Series+ pack which includes Disney+, Netflix, OCS and a range of other channels (which launches at €15 per month, instead of the typical pricing of €30 per month).

While all of this will prove a boon to Disney’s subscriber numbers in Europe, its overall total will undoubtedly be buoyed by India when the service eventually launches there after a “briefly paused” rollout.

It is somewhat ironic that while European interest in Disney+ is intensifying as a result of the coronavirus, the pandemic has halted the launch in its tracks in India. The country was meant to receive the service through Hotstar on March 29 to coincide with the new IPL season, however those plans have been derailed with coronavirus causing the league’s postponement to April 15. Disney has not announced a new launch date, presumably because that April 15 date for the IPL is optimistic to put it gently.

But despite this hiccup, the international adoption of Disney+ is set to meet expectations and make it one of the market leaders in short order.

The Omdia analysis concludes that the service “will reach over five million paid subscriptions in Western Europe by year end, bringing total Disney+ (excluding the Hulu+ESPN+Disney+ bundle in the US) subscribers to 30.5 million paying subscriptions,” with Western Europe then “set to grow paid subscriptions to over 13.7 million by the end of 2024.”

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