In October 2020, Disney announced that it was going through a major restructuring to focus its business around streaming. The company spent much of last year reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Its parks division laid off 28,000 workers in Florida and California after its amusement parks were shut down by state-wide COVID restrictions that the company’s lobbying efforts were unable to overturn. The neverending stream of Marvel Cinematic Universe films that dominate pop culture ran dry, resulting in the first year without an MCU film in a decade.
CEO Bob Chapek described the focus on streaming not as a reaction to COVID-19, but an acceleration of a plan that would otherwise have been rolled out slowly over time. So how is that plan going? Disney is scheduled to release its Q4 and full-year 2020 earnings today, and projections look grim, with the one ray of hope being Disney+ subscriber numbers, which investors expect to be significantly higher than they were during the same quarter last year.
2021 has been a proving ground for Disney+ so far — the Marvel drought has ended with the release of WandaVision earlier this month, the first of Disney+’s much-anticipated trove of MCU shows and the first piece of new MCU content since 2019. We’ve written before about streaming services competing for killer apps like Friends or The Office, and though Disney+ made an at-home blockbuster out of Hamilton last summer and has found success with The Mandalorian, WandaVision is Disney’s first shot at a newly-released blockbuster series under its new streaming-first strategy.
It will be hard to tell exactly how much shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision bumped up subscriptions for Disney+ until numbers are released, but data shows that reception is mixed.
On the whole, Disney+’s Daily Pageviews Per User are up 71.6% over the last year, signalling strong growth for a streaming service that is only just over a year old. The biggest spike in pageviews occurred around November 16, three days after the third episode of season two of The Mandalorian aired.
However, WandaVision has failed to move the needle in a similar fashion. Since the first episode of Wandavision aired on January 15, average daily pageviews have decreased by 4.6%, reaching a valley at -6.2% three days after the season premiere.
Apple App Store reviews, a proxy measurement for the number of new downloads of an app, aren’t growing meaningfully either. Despite a significant year-over-year increase of 120,800 new reviews — a 135% increase — only 2,000 new reviews have been submitted since WandaVision first aired.
Marvel’s first foray into streaming has not been the hit or driver of subscriptions that Disney perhaps hoped it would be. Despite Marvel’s unusual absence from pop culture in 2020 WandaVision has failed to drive a media and meme frenzy the way its counterpart The Mandalorian was able to thanks in part to baby Yoda. Whether a symptom of Marvel fatigue, streaming fatigue or otherwise, Disney's inaugural pair of streaming superheroes are being met with mediocre reception.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.