Shares of Walt Disney Co. fell by 9% Thursday after the company revealed not just another quarter of massive streaming losses but also that 4 million Disney+ subscribers canceled their subscriptions.
Disney’s direct-to-consumer division, which includes its Disney+ and Hulu streaming services, lost $659 million in the most recent quarter.
Some saw that as good news in light of the $1.1 billion loss in the prior quarter and a $1.5 billion loss in the three months before that.
However, the narrower loss wasn’t due to a surge in new sign-ups — as noted above, Disney+ said adios to millions of subscribers.
It was due to price hikes that boosted revenue, which means Disney is now squeezing more cash out of fewer people.
This isn’t a winning strategy, but Disney is by no means alone in scrambling to figure out a sustainable streaming business model. Most of the major streaming services continue bleeding cash.
In a sense, it’s a no-win situation. They’re all investing heavily in content to attract new subscribers, but they’re also trying to keep prices (relatively) affordable amid a time of economic uncertainty.
Also, recent surveys have shown that most households are cutting back on subscriptions to make ends meet. Many limit themselves to no more than three streaming services at any one time, which creates a sort of Darwinian struggle for survival.
At this point, the big streamers seem focused on gradually raising prices as they test the pain threshold for consumers. Is $15 a month too pricey? How about $20?
Disney CEO Bob Iger offered a cheerful assessment of his company’s efforts.
“We’re pleased with our accomplishments this quarter, including the improved financial performance of our streaming business, which reflect the strategic changes we’ve been making throughout the company to realign Disney for sustained growth and success,” he said in a statement.
“From movies to television, to sports, news and our theme parks, we continue to deliver for consumers, while establishing a more efficient, coordinated and streamlined approach to our operations.”
He left one thing out.
He’s raising the price of Disney+ again, later this year.