Disney logged $4.3 billion in total streaming revenue, up 57 percent from a year earlier. The monthly price for a Disney+ subscription in the United States rose $1 in late March, to $8. Disney+ also generated tens of millions of dollars from “Cruella,” which was made available to subscribers in May — at the same time the film arrived in theaters — for a $30 surcharge. Hulu, which Disney took over in 2019, benefited from higher advertising revenue and subscriber growth.
Disney said Hulu had about 42.8 million subscribers, a 21 percent increase from last year. About 15 million people pay for access to the company’s ESPN+ platform, up 75 percent from a year earlier.
But building a portfolio of streaming services is mighty expensive. A variety of costs (content production, marketing, technology infrastructure) contributed to losses of roughly $300 million for Disney’s streaming unit. Still, the division lost twice that amount in the same period a year ago.
Citing the pandemic, which has ravaged the movie theater business, Disney has recently changed its film distribution methods. Some films that were originally supposed to play in theaters — animated films, in particular — have been rerouted to Disney+ entirely. Others have been made available on Disney+ when they open in theaters, a practice that has put the company on war footing with at least one major star and her agents.
Scarlett Johansson, who has played the superassassin Black Widow in eight films, sued Disney this month, contending that making “Black Widow” available on Disney+ when it opened in theaters “dramatically” lowered box office revenue, which cost her tens of millions of dollars in bonus compensation. Her lawsuit drew a blistering “no merit whatsoever” response from Disney.
Mr. Chapek commented only indirectly on Thursday on Ms. Johansson’s complaint.
“Certainly this is a time of anxiety in the marketplace,” he said in response to an analyst question about Disney’s movie release strategy. “These films that we are releasing right now were imagined under a completely different environment than unfortunately fate has delivered us. But we’re trying to do the best thing for all our constituents and make sure that everybody who is in the value chain, if you will, feels like they’re having their contractual commitments honored both from a distribution and a compensation standpoint.”
The company will continue to decide “film by film” how movies will be released, Mr. Chapek said. “We value flexibility,” he said.