Even before the pandemic, Disney had been increasingly focused on its streaming services such as Disney Plus, which launched a year ago and now boasts 73.7 million subscribers, surpassing analysts' and the company's own expectations.
Described as "the real bright spot amidst the pandemic" by CEO Bob Chapek on the company's earnings call, the dominant force in the D2C group is Disney+, which has reached 73 million users worldwide - up from just over 60 million at the end of Q3. "Given our Direct to Consumer business is key to future growth of our company we restructured our media and entertainment businesses by separating content creation from distribution".
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During the investor call, Chapek also noted that Disney+ is now available in more than 20 countries worldwide, with plans to launch in Latin America on Tuesday. Disney said it estimated the spread of Covid-19 had caused a $2.4 billion hit to its parks division.
Overall revenue fell about 23% to $14.71 billion in the quarter ended October 3, above analysts' average estimate of about $14.2 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data. While some (Walt Disney World in Florida, Tokyo Disney Resort, Shanghai Disney Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort) have since opened with limited capacity, others (Disneyland in California) remained closed indefinitely. Overall 2020 revenues slid by 6% from US$69.6 billion in 2019 to US$65.4 billion by the end of 2020.
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Report said that this shows signs of increasing demand and trust in Disney parks. Movie theaters likely won't be operating at pre-pandemic levels until an effective Covid-19 vaccine is widely available.
Disney also said losses narrowed at its direct-to-consumer businesses - the home to its streaming operations - with Hulu and ESPN+ contributing to the improvement.
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He acknowledges that people are willing to visit the parks because they trust Disney and are confident in the measures that have been taken. Disney's Anaheim parks may then need time to prepare for visitors if able to reopen. Disneyland Paris reopened in July and is now closed again. The job losses could mount, since Disney World continues to operate at partial capacity and Disneyland remains closed. In September, when Disney announced that it was forced to lay off 28,000 workers, Disney Parks Chair Josh D'Amaro singled out the government for a significant portion of the blame, saying, "To our California government officials, particularly at the state level, I encourage you to treat theme parks like you would other sectors".