UPDATE August 13: On August 12th our prediction was proven correct – Eastern Europe launch is delayed. 2021 will only see 4 total new Disney+ countries and 2 (or maybe 3) Hotstar countries. An enormous drop off after 2020’s solid progress.
In Year One of Disney+ (for sake of this article November 12, 2019 – December 31, 2020) the service launched in 85 out of 244 countries and territories*. This includes all of North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, roughly half of Europe, 3 countries in Asia, and zero countries in Africa. Those three Asian countries are Disney+ Hotstar launches in India and Indonesia as well as Japan’s Disney Deluxe rebranding. This is extremely impressive. Despite the pandemic, they managed launch roughly half the world and only fell a few months behind their initial plan.
2021 looks to be another story. In the past 7 months from December 2020 until July 2021 Disney has only launched in 3 new countries: Singapore in February, Disney+ Hotstar in Malaysia on June 1st and Thailand on Wednesday (June 30th). This brings their progress to 88 out of 244, or 36 percent. A recent report covered by Variety revealed that Disney is at risk of plateauing in Asia and needs to ramp up content as well as launches. This isn’t meant to shade Disney – there are plenty of things that could be responsible for this sudden slowdown and that include the pandemic, legal challenges, financial setbacks, and infrastructure issues.
Another reason this year has been slow is because in February Disney launched the STAR brand tile in most countries that already had Disney+. While STAR is just a brand tile like the Marvel, Pixar, or Star Wars brand tiles, Disney is spinning it for PR purposes and to “protect their reputation of family friendly fare” as a “separate streaming service” that just happens to live inside Disney+. Whatever. Point is – this required a huge marketing blitz and for them to double their database by adding about 800 more titles throughout the world and so it’s quite possible that this resulted in their new territory launches getting delayed. The good news is the aforementioned Variety article singled out STAR as driving views and subscribers in multiple countries.
CEO Bob Chapek said at the Q2 Earnings Call in May that Disney was on schedule, but based on their global rollout roadmap presented at Investor Day 2019 they are close to missing their goal. They listed Eastern Europe rollout through out Fiscal Year 2021. In businesses, they often refer to Fiscal Years instead of Calendar years and each company starts and stops their year at different points. For Disney, they consider September 30th the end of their Fiscal Years. Therefore, July 1st welcomes Quarter 3 of 2021, but Quarter 4 of FY2021.
In other words if Disney plans to launch in Eastern Europe this Fiscal Year they are very quickly running out of time. While the recent Hotstar launches in Malaysia and Thailand were given a 1 month heads up, the bigger multiple-country launches such as Western Europe Waves 1 and 2 and Latin America were given 6-8 weeks notice. It’s unknown how Disney defines Eastern Europe, but we assume this includes Central Europe countries as well. There are about 30 territories left there for Disney to grace with their presence including Poland, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Czechia, Croatia, Slovakia, Serbia, Armenia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, and more. To stay on target an Eastern Europe launch announcement needs to be made in July or August.
Perhaps they will announce a September launch at their August Q3 Earnings Call. Hopefully they come through soon because there are countless would-be subscribers who have been waiting forever to legally experience The Mandalorian (2019), Big Shot (2021), WandaVision (2021), Soul (2020), Luca (2021), and all the other great originals on Disney+. One only needs to glance at social media comments to see desperate pleas such as “PLEASE COME TO ROMANIA.”
In addition to Eastern Europe, at Disney’s 2020 Investor Day they singled out Hong Kong and South Korea as receiving Disney+ this year. While never confirmed by Disney, articles have revealed that Taiwan and Macau are expected to launch at the same time.
Disney + Hotstar has been unofficially revealed to launch in the Philippines between August-October. Hopefully more information is revealed soon.
While Disney is unlikely to match their 85 Year One launches in Year Two they could still add about 40 more this fall. That would leave all 54 African countries unaccounted for moving into Year Three, 6 out of 7 Southern Asian countries (only India has launched) and 6 out of 11 South East Asian countries including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos still waiting. Most of these remaining Asian countries are expected to receive Disney+ Hotstar.
Do you think Disney+ is falling behind their rollout goals? Are any of you still in countries waiting for Disney Plus? Leave a comment below and let us know!
*These numbers come from their source code and can be confirmed by searching for hasLaunched”:false and hasLaunched”:true and doing a bit of counting.
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.