Disney overtakes Netflix as biggest streaming platform

Disney will roll out a new ad-supported streaming service in the US in December, as it overtakes Netflix in the race for subscribers.

The firm said it had 221.1 million subscriptions across its three streaming platforms as of 2 July.

That put it just ahead of Netflix, which has been losing customers.

But Disney warned that its loss of streaming rights for cricket in India would reduce its subscriber growth compared to previous forecasts.

The firm, which also owns general audience television platform Hulu and the sports-focused ESPN+, said demand for its Disney+ product remained strong.

Disney added 14.4 million Disney+ accounts in the quarter, many of them outside of the US – far more than analysts had expected.

Later this year it will launch a new ad-funded service, which will still be charged at the current subscription rate of $7.99. The charge for the ad-free service will rise to $10.99 per month.

The firm plans to launch its ad-funded service outside the US next year.

Executives said they do not expect the rise in prices to put off customers over the long term. The firm is also seeing strong interest from companies hoping to advertise on the new service, they said.

“We are in a position of strength with record upfront advertising commitment,” chief executive Bob Chapek told analysts in a conference call to discuss the firm’s financial results.

Disney’s subscriber gains have come at a hefty cost, with its streaming business losing $1.1bn in the quarter.

Netflix lost nearly one million accounts in the most recent quarter, putting its membership total at 220.67 million.

That is just ahead of Disney, which counts each subscription to a streaming platform separately, meaning customers who pay for more than one service are counted more than once.

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