Two of the mega corperations that own most of the things we love took gambles over the Christmas weekend. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic really hurt the entertainment industry in multiple ways. What, at first, looked like movies getting delayed a few months and everything would be fine has morphed into people wondering if summer 2021 is the earliest we might see people mass returning to movie theaters. Disney and WarnerMedia needed ways to keep the lights on when no one is going to the theaters, so they both put bets on the Disney+ and HBO Max streaming services, respectively.
Now, this is hardly the first time that either company has taken a movie intended for theaters and put in on their streaming service. Disney put Mulan on Disney+ as a PVOD offering earlier this year, while WarnerMedia moved The Witches out of theaters and onto HBO Max. For Disney, the Mulan gamble didn't seem to really work out in their favor, and The Witches wasn't that anticipated of a release anyway. Their respective decisions to put Soul and Wonder Woman 1984 on their streaming services for no extra charge were tests to see how that model would work. Some of the numbers are in, so let's look at how it worked out for both companies.
Holiday Numbers for Disney+ and HBO Max
First, let's do Disney+. Disney has been killing it with their streaming service, and at the Disney Investor Day, they announced that they had 83 million subscribers, which puts them well ahead of their target numbers only a year into the service being live. Those numbers only promise to increase as 2021 becomes the year of releases. We were supposed to at least two Marvel series in at this point, but the first drops next month with a bunch on the way. Soul is a pretty big get for the service and a family movie on an app designed with family's in mind during a holiday when everyone had to stay home? It would be hard to lose at that, and Disney didn't. According to Bloomberg, Disney+ saw about 2.3 million global installations over the Christmas holiday.
Over at WarnerMedia and HBO Max, things are a little less bright and shiny. While hardly the worst streaming service Christopher Nolan HBO Max has had a harder time finding subscribers than Disney+ did. Maybe that has something to do with the price difference, maybe it's a content thing or some combination of everything, but they have been struggling. Warner Bros. made the decision to hybrid release their entire 2021 slate last month, and Wonder Woman 1984 is the first one out of the gate. Bloomberg reports that HBO Max saw an estimated 554,000 users sign up for the app from Friday to Sunday, with 244,000 on Sunday alone. The active mobile users for HBO Max are just under 12 million, and WarnerMedia is reporting that half of their subscribers watched Wonder Woman 1984 this weekend.
Now, one might notice that this report for Disney+ and HBO Max only includes mobile downloads. According to Bloomberg, the numbers for things like smart TVs or anything like that have not been reported yet, but this data for mobile does help figure out a way to measure traffic. We're still waiting for both companies to come out with press releases touting their official numbers, but both seem happy. Warner Bros. is happy enough that they greenlit a third Wonder Woman movie and has not backed down from the decision to make their entire 2021 slate get the same hybrid release. As for Disney, they are still pushing ahead with their massive release slate for 2021 and likely happy with the latest round of downloads. How these numbers end up panning out will ultimately define how many big releases we see in theaters over the next decade.