With superheroes and sci-fi, Disney+ outlook bright


FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with the "Disney" logo is seen on a keyboard in front of the words "Streaming service" in this picture illustration taken March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

(Reuters) -Slow subscriber growth at Walt Disney Co's streaming service in the last quarter was a speed bump as a slate of Marvel superhero films and sci-fi thrillers from the Hollywood powerhouse will attract new fans, analysts said.

The positive comments come a day after Disney+, the streaming service the company launched in late 2019, failed to reach as many subscribers by early April as Wall Street had estimated.

Netflix Inc, AT&T's HBO Max and Disney+ have added millions of new subscribers during the pandemic as people stayed indoors.

However, growth is expected to slow as production delays hurt film and TV shows, with the meteoric rise in subscriber numbers last year making comparisons difficult in 2021.

But analysts were largely optimistic over Disney's position in the market. Disney+ launched 12 years after Netflix started a streaming video service, and has already reached about half of Netflix's size in less than 18 months.

A steady stream of the hottest franchises is seen sustaining the lead for Disney+ among traditional media companies for years to come.

"The benefit where Disney+ is concerned is its content already exists, and doesn't age in the same way many of today's films do," said Sophie Lund-Yates, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. "In the world of streaming, that is a godsend."

Upcoming Disney+ shows include Marvel's "Loki", Star Wars series "The Book of Boba Fett", and "Black Widow" starring Scarlett Johansson.

The company is also investing heavily to make inroads in international markets, with plans to launch Disney+ in Malaysia and Thailand next month.

Disney said it was on track to meet its target for 230 million to 260 million Disney+ subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024.

The company's shares fell 3% on Friday, but for now, analysts are upbeat on Disney.

"We'd call the current slowdown but a speed bump given the assets Disney will bring to bear on streaming," Wells Fargo said in a note. "The content pipeline is when, not if."

(Reporting by Aniruddha Ghosh, Eva Mathews and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Shounak Dasgupta)

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