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  • - [Narrator] One of Hollywood's recent breakout stars

  • isn't some up-and-coming actor.

  • Actually, he isn't even human.

  • It's this little guy, Baby Yoda,

  • or that's what fans named the child-like alien

  • from the hit Disney+ show, The Mandalorian.

  • Instantly meme-able, the little green character

  • helped make Disney's new show

  • and its new streaming platform a smash hit.

  • Since launching in November 2019,

  • Disney+ has surged to the upper echelon

  • of the crowded streaming ranks,

  • with 37 million subscribers in the US

  • and over 86 million globally.

  • It's success has marked a bright spot for Disney,

  • a company that has lost a little bit of magic.

  • In The Mandalorian, characters go to great lengths

  • and take a few risks to keep Baby Yoda safe.

  • (dramatic music)

  • And in many ways, Disney has made similar moves

  • to help its nascent streaming platform thrive.

  • Baby Yoda might have been a new character,

  • but the universe he lives in wasn't new at all.

  • Disney owns the Star Wars franchise.

  • It's one of the many well-known brands

  • the company packed into its Disney+ streaming catalog.

  • WSJ's Eric Schwartzel has been following Disney+'s growth.

  • - The Mandalorian has been the breakout hit of Disney+

  • and it's no surprise because it combines

  • a known entity, the Star Wars universe,

  • arguably the most successful franchise in Hollywood history,

  • with a new storyline that you can only see

  • and explore on Disney+.

  • - [Narrator] Disney+ offered 500 films

  • and over 7,500 TV episodes at launch.

  • - They had this stable of brands

  • that they could already draw on.

  • Plus, they had movies and characters

  • that people wanted to watch again and again.

  • So if Disney+ became the exclusive home

  • of the Iron Man movies and the Finding Nemo movies,

  • that was already a built-in advantage.

  • Then they were able to use those brands and characters

  • to make sequels and reboots that become events

  • on the service and give them this perfect bridge

  • of new material using older familiar characters.

  • - [Narrator] This helped garner 10 million subscribers

  • on its first day, with The Mandalorian

  • driving buzz and aclaim.

  • This overnight success couldn't have come

  • at a better time for Disney.

  • Even before the pandemic, investors had questioned

  • Disney's longterm growth potential.

  • Disney+ was viewed as a critical venture

  • to help the company capitalize on digital entertainment,

  • but with so many streaming options crowding the space,

  • the platform wasn't a surefire bet.

  • Here's former Disney CEO and current executive chairman

  • Bob Iger speaking to WSJ in 2019.

  • - This is a dramatic shift

  • in the way people consume entertainment and information.

  • Your business is going through the same thing.

  • And it requires an immediate shift in strategy

  • in order to stay healthy, in order to thrive.

  • - Investors were looking at companies like Netflix

  • and seeing those as companies

  • where there was a lot of growth,

  • whereas Disney, despite ruling the box office

  • and having theme parks that had to turn people away

  • they were so popular, had a major issue with cord cutting.

  • - [Narrator] This cord cutting was felt most

  • by Disney-owned cable network, ESPN.

  • And as cable subscriptions fell,

  • Disney's stock price became more volatile.

  • - Wall Street wanted to see a strategy

  • for growth and a strategy for the future.

  • And that is what led executives to conceive

  • of Disney+ and launch it in 2019.

  • So when the pandemic hit with Disney shuttering theme parks

  • and no theaters open to screen movies,

  • its share price took a dive.

  • With people staying home revenue shrunk

  • and Disney+ quickly became more important

  • to the company's bottom line.

  • - Without those traditional revenue streams,

  • Disney+ was leaned on even harder

  • as a place to look to for investors

  • as something that might keep the company afloat.

  • And frankly it has worked incredibly well.

  • - [Narrator] So well that Disney announced

  • a massive restructuring of the company,

  • positioning streaming as a top priority.

  • - Essentially, what we want to do is

  • separate out the folks who make our wonderful content

  • based on tremendous franchises from the decision-making

  • in terms of where the prioritization is,

  • in terms of how it gets commercialized into the marketplace.

  • - [Narrator] This included redirecting high-profile releases

  • like Hamilton and Mulan from theaters onto its platform.

  • Alexander Hamilton

  • My name is Alexander Hamilton

  • - They reorganized the company in a way

  • such that there is now an almost agnosticism

  • about where a movie or TV show will run.

  • It is more about creating that show,

  • building that programming, and then deciding

  • would this be best in a theater?

  • Would this be best on a TV network?

  • Would this be best on Disney+?

  • And increasingly Disney+ is the preferred option.

  • - [Narrator] This strategy seems

  • to have energized Wall Street.

  • Despite posting two consecutive quarters of losses in 2020,

  • including losing over $2 billion in its park division,

  • Disney's stock price has rebounded.

  • In November it announced plans to lay off

  • 32,000 employees by March, 2021,

  • mostly in its parks division.

  • It also said it would be suspending its January dividend

  • to invest more heavily in streaming.

  • On top of this Disney+ set of projection

  • of 260 million subscribers by 2024.

  • But experts question how realistic

  • this forecast actually is.

  • A Disney spokesperson said in a statement

  • that with a rapidly expanding pipeline

  • of exceptional original programming in the works

  • the company believes it will significantly

  • expand its global subscriber base.

  • - What they're trying to do now is figure out

  • what they can do in terms of pricing

  • and also what they can do in terms of international growth,

  • because that is where a lot

  • of the new subscribers are going to be coming from.

  • There are some challenges ahead.

  • For one, it remains an incredibly competitive landscape

  • and no one really knows yet how many streaming services

  • the average consumer might want to subscribe to.

  • And the other question becomes what is temporary

  • and what is permanent when it comes to the way

  • viewing habits have changed during the pandemic.

  • - [Narrator] Questions like these will test

  • whether Disney can navigate

  • a post-coronavirus business landscape.

  • And if Disney+ can not only be the most magical,

  • but also the most streamable place on earth.

- [Narrator] One of Hollywood's recent breakout stars

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How Disney+ Became a Streaming Service Heavyweight | WSJ

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/31
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