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Disney+ and Netflix see demand surge but will have challenges to overcome

As many countries around the world enforced home lockdown measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, streaming services have seen subscriber numbers surge and viewing times lengthened. In the first quarter of 2020, Netflix added more than double the number of subscribers it was expecting. The company now has over 182 million subscribers globally.

Meanwhile, Walt Disney has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Movie production and releases have been postponed, theme parks closed, and sporting events scheduled to be shown on ESPN cancelled. Disney+ has been the sole bright spot for the company. In the company’s first quarter, losses attributed to COVID-19 across all Disney’s operations were estimated to be as much as $1.4bn. Losses are continuing in the second quarter. In contrast, Disney+ grew its subscriber base to over 50 million and increased its quarterly revenue from $1.1bn to $4.1bn. While this was only the second quarter that the streaming service existed in, the results are promising.

It remains to be seen if Netflix and Disney+ can maintain subscriber numbers as countries begin to emerge from lockdown. While it is difficult to predict what impact this will have, it is likely that the process of leaving lockdown will be gradual. In various countries regional lockdowns are being utilized in an attempt to quell coronavirus hotspots, and in areas where restrictions are being lifted, this is being done in stages. As such, streaming services are likely to remain popular for the time being.

The second issue that Netflix and Disney may face is a lack of content as lockdowns have meant that productions have been halted. As filming does begin to restart, social distancing measures in various countries may make this difficult. If content isn’t refreshed, there is the potential for subscriber numbers to begin to dwindle. However, both Netflix and Disney have their own strengths in this respect, which should help the services to continue to attract subscribers.