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Disney+ tops 100 million subscribers as company eyes California theme park reopening next month

·Reporter
·3 min read
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Disney's (DIS) flagship streaming program has surpassed 100 million new subscribers.

The entertainment giant's eponymous Disney+ reached the 9-digit subscriber mark in only 16 months of operations, as user growth boomed over the course of the pandemic. Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced the latest leg higher in Disney+ user growth during the company's annual shareholder meeting Tuesday afternoon.

"The enormous success of Disney+, which has now surpassed 100 million subscribers, has inspired us to be even more ambitious," Chapek said during the company's virtual meeting.

The latest subscriber number also marked an increase from the 94.2 million subscribers Disney last reported less than one month ago. For comparison, larger and older streaming behemoth Netflix reported nearly 204 million global paid viewers as of the end of last year.

But Disney+ has continued to leapfrog beyond expectations, as the platform's auspicious November 2019 launch date teed up the platform to capitalize on an explosion of streaming demand during the pandemic. Disney said at its investor day in December that it expected between 230 million-260 million global subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024, up significantly from the 60 million-90 million target the company offered in 2019. And Disney+ is expected to become a profitable business segment by fiscal 2024 as well, after the company's direct-to-consumer business segment containing Disney+ lost $2.8 billion in fiscal 2020.

Chapek added that the company remains on target to add at least 100 new titles per year to the platform through its various studios, including Disney Animation, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. The company first introduced this goal in December.

PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 28: In this photo illustration, Disney + logo is diplayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a television screen showing a Disney + logo on March 28, 2020 in Paris, France. At the request of the French government, the Disney + streaming platform has decided to postpone its launch in France to April 7. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MARCH 28: In this photo illustration, Disney + logo is diplayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a television screen showing a Disney + logo on March 28, 2020 in Paris, France. At the request of the French government, the Disney + streaming platform has decided to postpone its launch in France to April 7. (Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Theme parks poised to reopen

While Disney+ has grown by leaps and bounds throughout 2020, Disney's legacy theme parks and cruise line businesses have languished. Once the most profitable portion of Disney's entertainment empire, the parks, experiences and products segment posted an operating loss of $81 million in fiscal 2020, swinging from a profit of $6.8 billion in 2019.

Disney’s major theme parks in Anaheim, Calif. have been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic, though most of Disney's other global parks have reopened with capacity constraints. However, Chapek said Tuesday that the company is aiming to reopen the California theme parks by the end of April, and "[looks] forward to publicizing an opening date in the coming weeks."

"While last week's announcement stated that theme parks may open starting April 1, the fact is it will take some time to get them ready for our guests," he said. "This includes recalling more than 10,000 furloughed cast and retraining them to be able to operate according to the state of California's new requirements."

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have both been closed since last March, and the aggregate impact of global park closures and weak visitor trends led Disney to slash tens of thousands of jobs throughout last year.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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