A teenaged girl who periodically transforms into a giant panda is the improbable star of “Turning Red”, a coming-of-age movie from Disney due out next month. The world’s biggest media company, which will celebrate its 100th birthday next year, is no adolescent. But Disney is going through some awkward changes of its own as it reorganises its business—worth $260bn—around the barely two-year-old venture of video-streaming.
So far the experiment has been a success. The company’s streaming operation, Disney+, initially aimed for at least 60m subscribers in its first five years, ending in 2024. It got there in less than 12 months, and now hopes for as many as 260m subscribers by that date. Bob Chapek, who took over as chief executive just before the pandemic, is convinced that Disney’s future lies in streaming directly to the consumer, his “north star”. Disney+ is all but guaranteed to be among the survivors of the ruthless period of competition that has become known as the streaming wars.
But doubts are surfacing across the industry about how much of a prize awaits the victors. Every year Disney and its rivals promise to spend more on content. And yet the growth in subscribers is showing signs of slowing. A realisation is setting in that old media companies are pivoting from a highly profitable cable-TV business to a distinctly less rewarding alternative. Amid a bout of market volatility which last week saw Alphabet’s and Amazon’s share prices rise by a tenth or more and Meta’s fall by a quarter, investors are awaiting Disney’s quarterly results on February 9th with some trepidation. So, too, is Mr Chapek, whose contract expires one year from now.
"The combination of rising costs and slowing revenue growth calls into question the end-state economics of these businesses." https://t.co/Qxx2JWe0Af
— Jesse Felder (@jessefelder) February 7, 2022