Gen Z and Millennials Fuel Disney+’s Seismic Year 1 Growth

The streaming service is attracting a much broader audience than just kids and their parents, according to new data

Screenshot of Disney+
One-third of childless millennials watch Disney+ at least once a week. Disney+

Ahead of Disney+’s debut a year ago, executives told investors the service would have between 60 million and 90 million paid subscribers globally in five years. As of Oct. 3, the service had cleared 73 million subscribers—easily surpassing those five-year expectations before even debuting in Latin America this week—and new data from Morning Consult Brand Intelligence shows just how essential the service has become among viewers in the U.S.

New data from the global data intelligence company released Thursday found that nearly half of millennial parents use Disney+ at least once a week, showing the resilience of the streamer among households with children, which was long expected to provide some of the biggest initial bump in growth as the service rolled out.

But it’s not just parents with kids flocking to the streaming service. One-third of childless millennials watch Disney+ at least once a week, and in all, 42% of millennials use the service at least once a week. Even younger viewers are also embracing the service: 44% of Gen Z viewers—defined as anyone born from 1997 onward, and many of whom do not have children—watch it weekly or more.

Including all age groups, 26% of U.S. adults view Disney+ at least once a week, on average, according to Morning Consult Brand Intelligence. For comparison, about 10% of U.S. adults watch Apple streamer Apple TV+, which debuted around the same time, with the same regularity.  

The meteoric rise for the service among users without children underscores just how important the strategic decision from Disney to put grown-up shows like The Simpsons on the service has been to broaden the appeal of the service to adults, regardless of if they are parents.

And even when Covid-19 shutdowns earlier this year prompted surges in streaming usage, the usage of Disney+ has been remarkably consistent through 2020, showing that consistent usage had settled in prior to the beginning of the pandemic.

There’s also no considerable drop-off, suggesting that Disney+ has not suffered drop-offs as some of its more high-profile original series, including Marvel originals WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, have faced Covid-19 delays. (Disney announced this week that WandaVision would premiere on Jan. 15, instead of a previously planned December debut.)

To fill those programming gaps, Disney+ has moved to add some theatrical releases, like Onward, Hamilton and Mulan, to the streamer throughout the year. Soul, a Pixar original film, will debut on Disney+ on Christmas Day, the company announced last month.  

The success of Disney+ is one that Disney is looking to replicate with the 2021 debut of an international streamer under Disney’s Star brand. The company plans to share more with investors about its broader direct-to-consumer strategy on Dec. 10.


@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.
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