A week after Disney+ launched to great fanfare and amid claims of security breaches, Kevin Mayer today pulled back the Mouse ears a bit on the subscriber tsunami that hit the streaming service on Day 1 and the resulting widespread technical glitches.
“We were very surprised by the size and the magnitude,” the head of Disney’s Direct to Consumer and International division admitted of the reaction inside the Bob Iger-run media giant to the initial subscriber numbers of 10 million in the first few hours. It was “a lot larger than we thought,” added the exec, now widely pinned as the potential heir to Iger when the CEO exits in a couple of years (if he doesn’t ink another contract).
Mayer might have not taken the bait for unveiling more sub results to the crowd during Tuesday’s Recode conference appearance in Hollywood, but the corporate hardman came out swinging when asked about the technical snafus that partially hobbled Disney+ out of the gate across North America.
“We never had demand like we saw that day,” emphasized Mayer, making sure to note that it was “not Amazon” that was to blame. “We ran into issues with the architecture, and we’re fixing that,” said Mayer, who is known tobe hard-pushing. He joked to the audience that he was “very measured” in his response to the crashes, freezes and customer service issues.
It should be noted that Mayer had hedged his bets in the days before the Disney+ November 12 with predictions of technological challenges – and he was proven right.
“It was a coding issue and we are going to recode it,” Mayer stressed, promising “software updates” that consumers will see in the next week or so.
As transparent as the Burbank-based executive offered to be about those first-day hurdles, Mayer surprisingly said nothing about reports of Disney+ accounts being hijacked and sold on the dark web.
However, once Mayer was offstage, a company spokesperson refuted any deep security disturbances. “We have found no evidence of a security breach,” they said Tuesday evening.
“Billions of usernames and passwords leaked from previous breaches at other companies, pre-dating the launch of Disney+, are being sold on the web, the company continued in its first major statement on the matter. “We continuously audit our security systems and when we find an attempted suspicious login we proactively lock the associated user account and direct the user to select a new password. We have seen a very small percentage of users in this situation and encourage any users who are having these kind of issues to reach out to our customer support so we can help them.”
To that end, Wall Street did not appear to be fazed by the hacking reports. Disney shares gained a fraction to close at $148.38, close to their all-time high just north of $150 established last week.
Meanwhile, Credit Suisse analyst Doug Mitchelson, while no Disney bear, issued a report Tuesday saying the strong launch of Disney+ has had “little-to-no impact on Netflix trends, reassuring for Netflix relative to the competitive concerns priced into its stock.”
As for another peek into the future and with AppleTV+ already on the battlefield plus HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock to come in 2020, Mayer did venture that “not everyone will succeed” and there will be a culling coming once all the new streamers launch. “I think somewhere between three and six,” Mayer predicted would be left standing in a few years, noting that if finances were the main consideration for consumers then “those who decide to chord cut are freeing up a lot of money.”
Stressing a multitude of “adult entry points” in the family-focused Disney+, longtime company strategy chief Mayer admitted that the bundling with Hulu+ and ESPN+ was aimed in part to backstop grownups drifting away from the service.
With the arsenal of legacy plus Marvel, Star Wars, Nat Geo and Pixar offerings and originals, Iger and other company brass have said they hope to see 60 million-90 million Disney+ subscribers by 2024.
Still, with a $7 month for Disney+ solo and $12 for the bundle, there were no more subscription numbers offered up by the House of Mouse or Mayer to compliment the first-day signups figures made public November 13. However, with a one-time only double dose of originals like the Star Wars series The Mandalorian and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, those streaming-war numbers likely increased over the opening week.
Following the line of the company he may lead after 2021, Mayer today reiterated that more numbers would be coming with quarterly reports.
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