Written by: Gaia Zol, Italy
The Walt Disney Co. corporation is never boring. There is always a new movie, a new announcement, and a new strategy. The company has confirmed that 2022 will be the year of content. The company is expecting to spend $33 billion in new programs, including streaming. This, despite the latest fall in subscriptions to the platform Disney+.
The announcement comes after Disney also made plans to debut in the metaverse and after it joined the latest crypto hype, NFTs. So, next year promises to be packed with activity and content.
Perhaps not another “Encanto,” a title that disappointed at the box office. The animated movie grossed $40 million during the opening weekend at the US box office, compared to the $93 million of “Frozen.” During the second weekend, the revenue dropped by 54%, to $12 million. So, definitely not another “Encanto” in 2022.
Betting on content
In 2021, Disney spent $25 billion in content, launching titles such as “Cruella.” The extra $8 billion in 2022 will go towards sports rights (since the franchise includes ESPN) as well as films and TV shows. In fact, the company has announced it will release at least 50 titles both for theaters and streaming platforms. On the other hand, the General Entertainment division is planning on producing 25 drama series and 10 animated series. Plus five movies made only for TV.
“The increase is driven by higher spend to support our DTC expansion and generally assumes no significant disruptions to production due to COVID-19,” Disney wrote in the report.
So, the virus won’t stop production. And the titles for next year are already keeping fans waiting in suspense. One of them is the animated film “Strange World,” which should launch during Thanksgiving 2022. Few details are available, but the plot focuses on the Clades family, a family of explorers. Adventure is a guarantee. While this title will launch in theaters, many others will be available only on the Disney+ platform. For good or for bad.
Disney+ has investors worried
The streaming service launched in 2019 and, in 16 months, it counted 100 million subscribers, reaching the milestone in March 2021. The subscriptions surpassed the company’s goal, so much so that the media giant announced a new goal: 260 million subscribers by 2024. In 2022, fans are awaiting films such as “Hocus Pocus 2,” which will premiere in the fall of 2022, and “The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild" at the end of January, starring none other than Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.
“Our direct-to-consumer business is the Company’s top priority, and our robust pipeline of content will continue to fuel its growth,” said the CEO, Bob Chapek.
Then, Disney+ slowed down. While it counted over 118 million members in November, the numbers hit the brake. Loyal fans are still loyal and they spend on the app, over $1 billion globally. But the streaming platform is struggling to attract everyone else —including investors.
Recent reports have shown that Disney+ added only 2 million subscribers in the last quarter of 2021, compared to the 12 million of the previous one. In comparison, Netflix added 4.4 million members during the last quarter of the year and it still outpaces the other streaming platforms, with over 74 million subscribers between the US and Canada. The numbers of Disney include Hulu, with almost 40 million members and ESPN at 17 million subscribers.
Why are the subscriptions of Disney+ slowing down? While there is no definite answer, the slowing of the pandemic might be related. As people get out of the house more, they become more selective with their subscriptions. So, Disney is turning to alternatives.
Where the hope lies
The solution might be the metaverse, a world that blends physical and digital. This innovation also features augmented reality, like the game Pokemon Go. In the game, offline and online meet to create a new and more engaging reality.
The Walt Disney Company has a long track record as an early adopter in the use of technology to enhance the entertainment experience,” said Chapek.
While the company is still figuring out the details of the project, the idea is to create an extension of Disney+ in a three-dimensional canvas. Storytelling to a whole new level. If it works. What’s working for Disney are NFTs, non-fungible tokens.
Through the VeVe Digital Collectibles App, Marvel launched its first collection of digital tokens called “Golden Moments.” It features virtual art, 3D statues, and digital comic books with characters like Iron Man and Elsa. Plus, the NFT “Golden Collection” includes secret and rare comic books, which fans will be able to trade and then show in their customized virtual showrooms. Each NFT will start from a value of $60 and each purchase includes three months free of Disney+. Talk about strategy, Disney.
“Like us, VeVe understands collecting is about the experience just as much as the product, and we look forward to extending that experience for our fans over the years to come,” said Dan Buckley, President of Marvel Entertainment. The collections are personal and interactive and they make the fans feel special.
Disney is betting on content but, more quietly, it’s also betting on the crypto and virtual world. Only next year will tell which of the two solutions is the winning one.