Disney+ Has 28.6M Paid Subscribers, Will Launch in India and Europe in March

Disney CEO Bob Iger said the November launch of Disney+ exceeded "even our greatest expectations." He also announced that Disney+ will launch in India this quarter.
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Disney+ is off to a strong start, according to executives.

Disney's direct-to-consumer service launched in November, and has racked up 28.6 million paid subscribers so far, the company said on Tuesday. Disney expects its next wave of subscribers to come from Western Europe and India, where Disney+ is set to debut in March. Disney  (DIS) - Get Report shares were roughly flat in after-hours trading.

Disney+ ended the quarter with 26.5 million subscribers, beating analysts' estimates of 20 to 25 million, and accumulated an additional 2 million this year thanks to new sign-ups directly on Disney and through various distributors. 

Disney CEO Bob Iger said he was "comfortable" that Disney+ struck the right balance of library and original content.

"Clearly, the original shows that we decided to invest in, led by the Mandalorian, have worked. And we knew when launched that we were launching with a modest amount of original programming and that it would build over time...[we] don't really feel that there's much that we have to adjust to right now," Iger said.

Disney initially targeted between 60 million and 90 million paid Disney+ subscribers by 2024, but did not update its guidance based on the initial performance of the service.

Iger said it was "too early" to do so, given that it will begin rolling out internationally in March. Disney+ will go live in the UK and Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Austria on March 24. Disney also announced that it will launch in India, through a bundle with Hotstar, on March 29 -- timed for the beginning of premier league cricket season.  

"We see this as a great opportunity to use the proven platform of Hotstar to launch the new Disney+ service in one of the most populous countries and fastest growing economies in the world," Iger said. 

Disney+ has plenty of runway, despite rising competition in streaming in the U.S. and elsewhere, according to Iger. In addition to incumbent Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Report, AT&T  (T) - Get Report TimeWarner's HBO Max and Comcast's  (CMCSA) - Get Report Peacock will launch this spring.

"There's obviously more competition coming into the space, but there isn't any competition that is like ours, like our product because of the investments that we've made in those franchises and the quality of the product that we've made over the years that we're continuing to make," Iger said. 

He added that Disney is "working up a plan" to launch Hulu internationally, and is aiming to do so in 2021. 

Disney recently reorganized its direct-to-consumer businesses, which include Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+, underneath one centralized division. ESPN+ had 7.6 at the end of last quarter and Hulu had 30.7 million subscribers, Disney said.