Insights

Marvel Is Integral to Disney’s Streaming Strategy

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has officially announced its 2023 slate of Marvel content, including several new titles exclusive to Disney+. The entertainment giant has leveraged its superhero content to make Disney+ “undroppable” by its subscribers. Here’s why. 

The power of Marvel

Disney’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009 is easily one of the best investments the company ever made, with the superhero sector of its business continuing to pay off year after year. Disney is responsible for 60% of the top 10 highest-grossing films of all time, and 40% are Marvel releases. Marvel’s Avenger: Endgame from 2019 was the highest-grossing film of all time for several months after it was released and still holds the second spot. Consequently, Disney has cleverly used Marvel’s popularity to attract subscribers to its streaming service, Disney+.  

Disney+ launched in the U.S. in November 2019, with its first original Marvel series, WandaVision, premiering in January 2021. The show was 81 times more viewed than the average streaming title across all platforms that month, before the whole season had even been released. The Marvel show also garnered an audience that was 19% bigger than Netflix‘s Bridgerton, which had premiered two weeks before. 

Additionally, amid a considerable marketing campaign for WandaVision in the fourth quarter of 2020, Disney+ subscribers grew by 28.7% — the quarter before the show was released. The streaming service then grew 9.1% from Q1 2021 to Q2 2021, while the show released episodes weekly. When its next original Marvel series, Loki, premiered in June 2021, Disney+ subscribers grew by a further 11.9%.

A clever release schedule

Disney has utilized Marvel to fill a popular entertainment niche in the streaming industry that it helped create, building a fan base with regular film releases since 2009 and using that established fan base to attract Disney+ subscribers. The company has developed a franchise with 29 films and counting, where fans who want to keep up with the story must subscribe to Disney+ to get the whole picture. 

To further utilize its biggest asset, Disney has released episodes of its original Marvel series weekly on Disney+. Opting for a week-to-week schedule over a binge model (which is what Netflix is known to do) has allowed Disney to encourage subscriber retention. The company has debuted its Marvel shows almost back to back since WandaVision premiered, leaving very little time for subscribers to drop Disney+ between releases.

Moreover, the company announced its 2023 Marvel release schedule on July 24, with five new series spread throughout the year. The company has essentially locked in a large portion of subscribers until at least 2024.

Along with a slew of new series sprinkled throughout 2023, the company will also be releasing four new feature-length Marvel films next year. If its recent releases are anything to go by, these movies will show up on Disney+ about one month after their theater release, and the company has scheduled them to fill any gaps between Marvel series.

Standing out from the competition

The juggernaut that Marvel has become has helped Disney create a unique streaming service in a competitive industry. As the market crowds with streaming services, it is increasingly crucial for platforms to offer a specific service, and Disney+ has that with its Marvel content. No other streaming service provides a consistent flow of superhero content from a well-known franchise.

Warner Bros. Discovery has released its DC films on its streaming service HBO Max and even debuted the original DC series Peacemaker on the platform. However, it has not been consistent with its DC content, and judging by the box-office returns from films within the franchise, its fan base is not as large as Marvel’s. Amazon has also dabbled in superhero content with its Prime Video hit The Boys. The company has plans for a spin-off show, but it’s still early days for its venture into the genre.

For Marvel to continue to be an asset for Disney+ growth, Disney will have to continue to release quality content. Its 2022 scheduled releases, such as August’s She-Hulk on Disney+ and November’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in theaters, need positive audience reviews and viewing numbers for the franchise to stay relevant. If these titles can add to the list of Disney hits, Marvel will be more than capable of retaining millions of Disney+ subscribers throughout 2023. 

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Dani Cook has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. and recommends the following options: long January 2024 $145 calls on Walt Disney and short January 2024 $155 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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