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Apr 8, 2020

Disney rallies as streaming service shoots past 50M subscribers

Signage for the Disney+ streaming service is displayed during the D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. Walt Disney Co. is turning the D23 Expo, the biennial fan conclave, into a big push for its new streaming services. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

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Walt Disney Co.’s five-month-old Disney+ service passed 50 million paid subscribers around the world, relying on a low price and trove of family-friendly programming to put the streaming platform on a record-setting pace.

Over the past two weeks, the company launched the online video service in eight European nations and India, helping quickly fuel growth. India, where it was bundled with the company’s existing Hotstar service, now accounts for 8 million subscribers, Disney said on Wednesday.

Disney shares, pummeled in recent weeks by the shutdown of its theme parks and the postponement of live sports and movie releases, jumped in after-hours trading on the subscriber news. They climbed as much as 8.1 per cent to US$109.30.

“We’re truly humbled that Disney+ is resonating with millions around the globe, and believe this bodes well for our continued expansion throughout Western Europe and into Japan and all of Latin America later this year,” Kevin Mayer, the chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international operations, said in a statement.

Disney+ is part of a three-pronged attack on the online video market that includes the company’s ESPN+ sports service and Hulu, which has more programming for general audiences. With hundreds of millions of families around the world cooped up in their homes to avoid the coronavirus, streaming services have seen a bump in viewers.

Disney+ features original programs, such as the Star Wars spinoff “The Mandalorian,” as well as hundreds of classic movies and TV shows from the company’s vault. At US$7 a month in the U.S., Disney+ is also cheaper than Netflix Inc.’s market-leading service.

Because of the global restrictions on public gatherings, Disney has been rushing to put movies on the service that would have normally had longer exclusive runs in theaters. “Onward,” a recent Pixar release, appeared on Disney+ this month, while “Artemis Fowl,” which was to have hit theaters in May, will now debut on the service.

The world’s largest entertainment company had projected 60 million to 90 million Disney+ subscribers by 2024, a number that now seems easily attainable.