Disney (DIS) is slated to debut Disney+, the company's direct-to-consumer streaming service, later this year and JPMorgan has high hopes for the service, telling investors in a note Wednesday that it is estimating eventual subscriptions of 160 million.
That number would be ahead of the 139 million subscribers rival Netflix (NFLX) currently has. JPMorgan said it expects Disney+ can eventually reach around 45 million domestic subscribers and 115 million foreign subscribers.
"While there is little question there are more DTC services today than ultimately should survive, we have no doubt that Disney+ remains on the short list of products that should prevail longer-term," analyst Alexia Quadrani wrote. "Our confidence in the resilient success of Disney+ comes from the company's unmatched brand recognition, extensive premium content and unparalleled ecosystem to market the service."
Disney shares were up 0.1% to $114.12 on Wednesday, while Netflix was up 0.3% to $355.14.
JPMorgan based its subscriber projections on a combination of census data, box office receipts and information from existing streaming services. It also noted that while it expects a big financial hit to Disney's fiscal 2020 numbers from the investments made in Disney+, those investments should result in a meaningful ramp in subscribers.
"The note put out by JPMorgan is very in line with our own thinking," said Zev Fima, research analyst for Jim Cramer's Action Alerts Plus portfolio, which owns Disney. "Back in November, we spoke to members about the need to be able to ride out short-term pain, longer-term gains and actually referenced Disney as a prime example. While we fully expect company financials in the next year or so to be impacted by the investments associated with building out an online streaming service, we think this is one of, if not the only company with an IP portfolio that can go head to head with the likes of Netflix."
JPMorgan also noted that Disney's streaming strategy does not rest entirely on Disney+. ESPN+ launched nearly 12 months ago and in February the company said that it had two million subscribers.
"While the balance of Disney's lucrative linear business with the DTC growth will be critical, we believe this multi-platform approach is the only choice and are confident that Disney has the arsenal to succeed in this strategy. Eventually, we believe Disney will offer a bundle with Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, providing a full service DTC offering to all key demos," Quadrani wrote.
Last week, Variety reported that Disney is in talks with AT&T's (T) WarnerMedia to purchase the company's nearly 10% stake in Hulu. Once Disney closes its $71 billion acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox assets later this year, Disney will double its Hulu stake to 60% from 30%. If WarnerMedia sells its stake, Disney will control nearly 70% of the streaming service.
Comcast's (CMCSA) NBCUniversal arm owns the remaining 30% of Hulu.
Disney is not currently covered by JPMorgan analysts.
Disney and Comcast are key holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust.
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