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Disney Plus growth slows as streaming fatigue hits

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WandaVision - Disney
WandaVision - Disney

Disney has revealed a slowdown in people signing up for its internet TV service in a sign that households are shifting their attention away from streaming as the pandemic eases.

The entertainment giant said that Disney Plus subscribers had risen by 8.7m in the first three months of the year, a marked drop from the 21.2m at the end of 2020. Its US-focused streaming services, ESPN+ and Hulu, also saw slowing growth.

The figures are the latest indication that the streaming boom of the last year, which saw the likes of Disney and Netflix sign up tens of millions of new subscribers, is fading. It came despite the success of the Marvel miniseries WandaVision, which premiered during the quarter.

Netflix said last month that it had lost subscribers in March, and predicted its slowest quarterly growth ever in the upcoming quarter three months.

Disney Plus, launched in late 2019, has been a bright spot for the company during the last year, when its giant theme parks have been shut down and cinemas closed. It surpassed 100m users in March, just 16 months after launch, and the company has brought forward estimates of when the service will be profitable.

The company’s chief executive Bob Chapek said last night that it was now seeing “encouraging signs” as it opens up its parks, although the division continued to make a loss, with revenue 44pc lower than a year ago.

Total sales fell 13pc to $15.6bn (£11.1bn), although profits almost doubled, largely due to a change in tax payments. Disney’s shares have traded at all-time highs recently on optimism that reopening will boost business at its parks, hotels and cruises, and that streamers will stay glued to Disney Plus.

Shares fell by around 4pc in after-hours trading following the results.

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