In late August, after multiple delays and legal issues, Disney launched its new general entertainment and sports streaming service, Star+, in Latin America, which is is available as a standalone service and includes fiction and non-fiction productions fully created in Latin America, a broad offering of live sports from ESPN, new international original productions like “Only Murders in the Building”; “Love, Victor”, and “Big Sky”. Also included in Star+ is the entire collection of animated comedies from 20th Television like “Solar Opposites” and ” The Simpsons. There are also some exclusive movies like “Vacation Friends, is a selection of Star Originals including “Only Murders in the Building”; “Love, Victor”, “Big Sky”, and “A Teacher”. Plus new series like “This Is Us”, “The Walking Dead”, and more.
However, since its launch, Disney has never actually announced how many subscribers Star+ has, and this week, the Walt Disney Company released its 10K report to the SEC for its current fiscal year. In this report, we’ve got an indication that Star+ has struggled to gain any traction in Latin America, as Disney is doing some manipulating of its subscriber numbers. The report states:
As of October 2, 2021, the estimated number of paid Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar and STAR+ subscribers, based on internal management reports, was approximately 118 million.
While we’ve known for a while that Disney+ Hotstar was incorporated into the overall Disney+ subscriber count, since while it’s a slightly different version of Disney+ compared to other countries, it’s still technically Disney+ at its core.
In the small print, the report states:
If a subscriber has either the standalone Disney+ or Star+ service or both the Disney+ and Star+ services, they are counted as one Disney+ paid subscriber.
Incorporating Star+ subscription numbers into the global Disney+ numbers means that Disney is ultimately hiding how many people are subscribed. Whenever Disney gets good news, it’s very vocal about its successes, and when it says nothing, it shows there is a problem. If Star+ and Disney+ are two separate streaming services, shouldn’t they be counted as two separate entities? Disney breaks down Hulu and ESPN+ numbers individually, so it looks like counting Star+ subscribers as Disney+ subscribers is a way of boosting Disney+ or hiding Star+. While no doubt Disney executives and number crunchers will have the actual date, it doesn’t look good to investors hiding this information.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek has previously said that they’ve had difficulty finding partners to help speed up the take up of Star+, but is hoping things improve going forward. But when you consider, Disney+ only managed to add 2 million subscribers worldwide in the last quarter, which included the launch of Star+ across Latin America. That indicates that the Star+ subscriber count is very small, especially as in a region with over 600 million potential customers, Star+ may have only have added a million or so subscribers since launch. Star+ has also failed to engage with its audience on social media as the official social media accounts follower numbers are only in the 100,000 range. While the official social media accounts for Disney+ have ten times the number of followers. Social Media followers might not directly connect to subscribers, but this is the main way Disney communicates to its users.
The launch of Star+ also suffered from many legal issues, mainly from Lionsgate’s StarzPlay, who were able to get a settlement from Disney regarding the name “Star”, which was going to cause confusion with consumers, but also may have had a negative impact on the launch of the streaming service.
Before the launch of Star+ in late August, Disney rebranded many of the Fox television channels it acquired following its purchase of 20th Century Fox to Star, then just weeks after Star+ launched, they closed the channels down. However, this approach still doesn’t look like it has resulted in fans subscribing to Star+. The streaming service also doesn’t have a huge amount of content, with around 150 series and 600 movies. In the past month, Star+ has added just only a couple of dozen titles, many of which are just library content such as multiple seasons of “The Walking Dead”, “SWAT”, “Prison Break”, “The Americans” and “Desperate Housewives”. While there are some Star Originals like “Dopesick” and “Solar Opposites” being released on Star+, there still isn’t much original programming to encourage people to sign up and just as important, very little original Latin American content.
Many Disney+ fans in Latin America weren’t happy with Disney’s decision to launch Star+ as a separate streaming service, since the rest of the world (with the exception of the United States) had Star incorporated into Disney+. Giving many Disney+ subscribers access to all the Star Originals and mature content. The only difference in the rest of the world is that there are no live sports available on Disney+, though Disney+ Hotstar in some countries like India, does include live sports.
With Star+ subscription numbers apparently so slow, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if Disney eventually does merge Disney+ and Star+ together in Latin America to reduce costs. Though I personally wouldn’t expect to see this happen for a while, since the main Disney+ app doesn’t yet include live sports, so it might require Latin America to have its own separate app, like Disney+ Hotstar. Seeing Disney actively trying to hide its Star+ subscriber numbers within its Disney+ subscribers, does imply things aren’t going great for the new Latin American streaming service. Disney CEO Bob Chapek has previously said they are testing different things out in different markets, but this test doesn’t appear at first glance to be working.
Do you think Star+ is a success?