The Story of Disney+

bob iger
Disney’s streaming platforms need to perform better on key metrics for the sake of growing ad revenue, and to reduce churn and justify higher pricing. Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney
Julia Alexander
April 2, 2024

A couple salient points emerge while poring over the dueling and far too long decks created by Nelson Peltz’s Trian and Bob Iger’s Disney in advance of tomorrow’s climactic proxy showdown. First, both Iger and Peltz agree that Disney’s direct-to-consumer unit is fundamental to the company’s long-term success. After all, Disney has more than 200 million global streaming customers across its various services—a critical ballast as the company increased D.T.C. revenue to $5.5 billion in the first quarter of 2024, up 15 percent from the prior quarter. (As a whole, Q1 was relatively flat quarter-over-quarter at $23.5 billion in revenue.) What’s also clear, however, is that neither Peltz nor his activist wingman Ike Perlmutter have any operating expertise in this space. And, of course, the strategies employed during the Iger I, Chapek, and Iger II eras have not been flawless, either. 

Indeed, Disney’s subscriber growth has stagnated across its platforms in the U.S., hovering around the 45-46 million mark over the past year and a half—about 43 percent below Netflix’s 80 million members in the U.S. and Canada. Meanwhile, Disney’s international growth has also paled in comparison to Netflix’s. And while Disney is cutting costs and moving toward profitability in the D.T.C. division, it simply hasn’t created enough new initiatives to push the business into its next stage of adoption (further growth) and engagement (longer session times). According to Nielsen, Disney+ also hasn’t surpassed 2 percent of streaming viewership share in the U.S. over the past year, while the percentage of total time spent on streaming in general has continued to increase.