Analyst Sees Verizon Deal Giving Disney+ 9M Subs

Nathanson forecasts streaming service hitting 18M subs by end of 2020
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The deal that the Walt Disney Co. cut with Verizon to give Disney+ free to some Verizon mobile and broadband customers will result in nine million subscribers for the new streaming service in its first year, according to an estimate by analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson Research.

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Nathanson also estimates that Disney+ will have 18 million worldwide subscribers by the end of fiscal 2020.

How much revenue that will generate remains an open question.

Nathanson estimates that of Verizon’s approximately 35.3 million customers (including business accounts), only about 17.7 million will be eligible for the free Disney+ offering. He assumes about half will opt in.

“We don’t know the business terms, but one has to assume that Disney is offering Verizon a volume discount off the annual rate card of $69.99,” Nathanson said in a note Wednesday.

“Disney has also been aggressively promoting its Disney+ upcoming launch, with a heavily discounted 3-year pre-payments of $141 (or $2.92/month) for D23 members and another, slightly less targeted 3-year offer.of $170 (4.72/month) for Disney Parks guests,” he said. "There are likely more of these promotions taking place ahead of the November 12 U.S. launch date given all the various Disney consumer touchpoints."

Nathanson expects Disney’s direct-to-consumer business--also including ESPN+ and Hulu-- to generate $7.049 billion in revenue in 2019 and expenses of $10.8 billion, resulting in an operating loss of $3.755 billion in 2019.

The losses will increase to $4.532 billion in 2020 then start to decline. 

The DTC business will turn positive in 2024, when Disney will have 162.5 million subscribers, revenue of $22.742 billion and operating income of $1.6 billion.

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