Disney Shares Surge After Disney+ Streaming Services Update

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04/12/2019 | 03:41 pm
Patrick Thomas

By Patrick Thomas

Walt Disney Co. shares surged to a fresh record Friday, as investors and analysts cheered the opportunity for Disney+, the newest addition to the company's suite of streaming services, to win subscribers in an increasingly crowded landscape.

Stock in the California entertainment company traded as high as $130.90, breaking the previous intraday record set in August of 2015. Disney shares are up 9% from Thursday's close to $127, bringing their gains so far this year to 16%.

On Thursday, Disney executives said the new subscription service will launch in November at a price of $6.99 a month. Disney+ will be ad-free and anchored by programming based on Disney's biggest franchises, the company said.

Within its first year, the streaming service will offer more than 7,500 episodes of television and 25 episodic series, alongside more than 100 recent movies and 400 library titles, Disney said. There will be nine original pieces of content at launch on Nov. 12, and 25 in the first year, from the Disney Channel, Marvel, National Geographic and its Star Wars production company, Lucasfilm Ltd.

The company expects Disney+ to have between 60 million and 90 million subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024, which was ahead of estimates from several analysts. JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts said in a research note Disney's subscriber projection was at the high-end of their expectations. With the $6.99 price point for Disney+, JPMorgan analysts said they expect an early surge of subscribers when the service launches.

Disney+ is slated to join sports-centered streaming service ESPN+ and Hulu, which has more than 25 million subscribers.

Shares of rival Netflix Inc. tumbled about 3.5% Friday, as investors weighed the latest entrant into the battle for streaming customers. Netflix had 139 million paid members world-wide as of Dec. 31.

Disney's acquisition of a majority stake in streaming technology company BAMTech LLC in 2017 helped fuel its streaming ambitions, Chief Executive Robert Iger said in an interview aired Friday on CNBC. Mr. Iger said, that without BAMTech, Disney wouldn't have bought the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox, giving the company access to content including titles such as "The Simpsons."

"The light bulb went off," Mr. Iger said referring to the Fox assets. "We evaluated what we are buying through this new lens."

Disney closed its $71.3 billion acquisition of the Fox assets in March, handing it control of Fox's movie and television production studios, the FX cable network, and National Geographic properties among others. .

Write to Patrick Thomas at Patrick.Thomas@wsj.com

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