Walt Disney said it will be forking out $14-$16 billion in content spending in fiscal 2024 on streaming services Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ as it ramps up original series and films to the tune of 100 a year.
Between $8-9 billion of that will go to Disney+, said CFO Christine McCarthy towards the end of marathon investor meeting Thursday. That’s at least double what was initially anticipated due to surging investment on original content — with over 100 new titles a year planned across its five key brands, in particular Marvel and Star Wars, and local production for international markets.
Disney shares surged 4% in late trading as the event began after market close, hitting another all-time high of more than $160.
CEO Bob Chapek noted that Disney’s various brands unspooled 63 series and 42 films at today’s event alone, more than 80% of them heading to DTC.
McCarthly anticipated Disney+ and its international iterations will hit between 230-260 million total paid subscribers by that year. The service will reach its peak year of losses in fiscal 2021 and hit profitability in 2024. Disney+ Hotstar could make up between 30-40% of the subscriber base.
Executive chairman Bob Iger, who has been overseeing global creative content, speaking before the CFO said the original content slate was considerably “more robust that we had initially anticipated.” That was before a major uptick in streaming competition and a pandemic that crushed theaters and accelerated consumers’ move towards home viewing.
Netflix, for instance, will spend an estimated $17+ billion this year on content.
“The fact, is we are only just getting started,” Iger said.
McCarthy expects Hulu will have 50-60 million subs by the end of 2024, including its Hulu Plus Live TV service. It will hit profitability in fiscal 2023. Disney’s fiscal year ends in September.
And ESPN+ will garner 20-30 million subscribers by the ennd of 2024, she predicted, and reach profitability the year before, in 2023.
All that means Disney should end 2024 with a total of 300-350 million total DTC subscribers compared with the total 137 million it logged as of Dec. 2.
As a testament to how dramatically streaming has reshaped the business, the company starting in the current fiscal first quarter will condense its financial reporting lines into only two major areas – media and entertainment and Disney parks, experiences and products. That follows a revamp of its management into two main content and distribution groups.
This Investor Day, which felt like a hybrid upfront, Comi-Con and shareholder presentation, didn’t touch on traditional broadcast and cable networks or mention theme parks at all. With no advertising involved, Investor Days may be the splashiest new forum for DTC content.I
In a Q&A with analysts, McCarthy confirmed that the streaming products will remain ad free. One reason for the Disney+ price hike. And she said content licensing will slow to a crawl after current contracts expire.