The day before Thanksgiving, Disney released its annual 10K report for investors indicating that the company’s “Premium Streaming” business generated $933M for the 2020-2021 fiscal year ending in October. Premium streaming is made up of all pay-per-view purchases on the company’s various streaming services, with the majority being for Disney+ subscribers to gain early access to watch new movies. This amount does not include monthly fees paid by subscribers to have access to the services themselves. Disney reported $12B in annual revenue for its overall streaming business, making the contribution from pay-per-view transactions relatively small.
Prior to the pandemic, Disney generated substantially greater income from its blockbusters, with theatrical box office earnings coming in at over $10B for 2018 and $11B for 2019. This does not mean that Disney made a bad decision to go out with Disney+ exclusive or day & date releases at the height of the pandemic. These films were launched during times when many theatres were closed or operating on reduced schedules and the public was hesitant to engage in most public activities. Disney used that period to grow its online business, to great success.
However, with new subscriptions to Disney+ leveling off and box office revenues edging back towards historical norms, Disney’s calculation may return to using exclusive theatrical releases as the most profitable way to release major titles.