Disney Plus hits 70 million subscribers, as Apple TV Plus lags behind

The Mandalorian: Season 1
(Image credit: Disney)

Disney Plus has hit something of a milestone, with Disney CEO Bob Igers reporting in a quarterly investors call that the streaming service now boasts over 73 million subscribers (via Washington Post).

The news comes amid an overall drop in profits this year, as Disney has struggled to keep its various theme parks open or pull in viewers in theaters for blockbuster films – but it seems the streaming service is going strong one year after launch.

It's still short of the roughly 200 million users on Netflix, but as a service that's only been around a single year – with several territories having to wait five months after that point to get it – it's still a sizeable achievement, and one that speaks to Disney Plus' broad appeal.

A widely indoor year has no doubt helped Disney Plus' fortunes, with on/off lockdowns around the world forcing people to rely on more domestic forms of entertainment. But disruption to shooting and production schedules for Disney Plus' upcoming movies and TV shows – say, WandaVision, or The Falcon and The Winter Soldier – has meant there hasn't been much to keep viewers occupied either.

The early arrival of Hamilton, and streaming release of blockbuster Mulan, however, may have softened the blow of this – while The Mandalorian season 2 continues to draw in viewers.

This number sits in stark contrast to Apple TV Plus' subscriber numbers, which currently sit at half the amount. Analysts at Statista estimate the service will have 40 million users by the end of 2020, and even those numbers are somewhat conflated: given Apple gives new iPhone or Macbook buyers a free year of the service, it's not quite a fair representation of who is willingly choosing to pay for access.

Apple TV Plus also launched in November 2019, and that means no one who got the service for free has yet to be faced with a monthly charge. The coming months, then, may be the most crucial for gauging Apple TV Plus' appeal beyond a free perk or temporary respite from browsing our Netflix and Disney Plus catalogues instead.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow

It's been a tricky year for TV and film production. We're now having to wait until January 2021 for Marvel TV show WandaVision to land, with the likes of Hawkeye and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier set to arrival on Disney Plus even after that, despite an initial 2020 release date for the former.

It's been an issue for Netflix, too, with Stranger Things season 4 and The Witcher season 2 both suffering from continual delays.

Apple TV Plus has still managed to gradually expand its meagre lineup this year, with feel-good football show Ted Lasso and Sofia Ford Coppola's On The Rocks continuing to flesh out the service. But Apple's platform still lacks the landmark exclusives that launched Disney Plus in such a big way, or has helped Netflix cement its position as the number one streaming service out there today. 

As ever, another year could see a lot change, though difficulties in filming (and therefore releasing) new content in the time of Covid-19 likely means these platforms' current fortunes won't be changing too much.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.