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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Disney's stock skyrocketed Thursday after the company reported a whopping 73.7 million paid Disney+ subscriber additions in its first year — a number that beat even its own ambitious streaming goals.

Why it matters: The fortuitous timing of the launch of Disney+ a year ago has saved the entertainment giant from economic disaster amid the coronavirus. And it's not alone.

  • The pandemic has wreaked havoc on Disney's movie studio business, cable networks and its parks and resorts division.
Data: Company filings; Note: HBO Max numbers include only the number of paid subscribers that have activated their HBO Max app subscriptions. Many more people  pay for HBO via their cable subscriptions, but have yet to activate the HBO Max app that comes with their cable subscription; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

AT&T also said it beat its media subscriber goals for last quarter. The company now has 38 million HBO and HBO Max subscribers combined, surpassing its year-end target of 36 million.

  • Of those, 8.6 million people have activated their HBO Max subscriptions, meaning they've downloaded the app and logged in.
  • In total, 28.7 million customers were eligible to get HBO Max at the end of the last quarter, although not all activated those subscriptions. Those people mostly pay for HBO via their cable subscriptions.
  • Like Disney, AT&T's Warner Bros. studios division has suffered amid the closure of theaters across the U.S. Its DIRECTV satellite division continued to lose subscribers as more people cut the cord for cheaper streaming alternatives.

Comcast reported its best quarter in history for broadband signups last quarter, thanks in large part to the fact that more people are at home streaming TV and using the internet.

  • The telecom giant, which is also suffering from hits to its studios, parks and resorts business, said NBCUniversal’s Peacock now has nearly 22 million sign-ups, although it didn't specify how many were paid subscribers that don't get the service for free with cable subscriptions.

The big picture: Almost all of the major entertainment giants reorganized their TV and film divisions last quarter around streaming.

  • Those efforts marked the biggest acknowledgment from legacy entertainment behemoths that streaming is the future.
  • Prior to the pandemic, traditional film and television distribution through cable, satellite and movie theaters was lucrative enough for companies to consider those channels their primary revenue vehicles for at least the next few years.

What's next: While most entertainment analysts think theater-going, content production and live sports will one-day return to more previously strong levels, the fate of those activities relies heavily on the development of a vaccine. And even with a vaccine, it's unclear whether some activities, like theater-going, will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2020 - Economy & Business

Nielsen's bid to win streaming

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nielsen, the decades-old TV and radio measurement company, is pushing to position itself to be the top vendor for streaming TV measurement. 

Why it matters: The industry loves to rag on Nielsen for being outdated, but it's still the most authoritative vendor in measuring tune-in for live television, and increasingly streaming TV content.

58 mins ago - Sports

The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Packed stadiums and a more normal fan experience could return by late 2021, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said yesterday.

Why it matters: If Fauci's prediction comes true, it could save countless programs from going extinct next year.

Trump's 2024 begins

Trump speaking to reporters in the White House on Thanksgiving. Photo: Erin Schaff - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump is likely to announce he'll run again in 2024, perhaps before this term even ends, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Trump has already set in motion two important strategies to stay relevant and freeze out other Republican rivals.