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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

Jan 19, 2021 - Economy & Business

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.