Disney+, Netflix Lose Millions of Subscribers to New Streaming Service

in Disney, Movies & TV

Disney+ logo on a blue gradient background.

Credit: Disney+

Disney+ and Netflix have been duking it out for years now to determine who will win the streaming wars, but it turns out that both companies are losing subscribers to upstart local services.

Disney+ and Netflix logos side by side
Credit: Inside the Magic

The Streaming Wars

It cannot be denied that, at least in the short term, Netflix is winning the streaming wars. As of January 2024, the platform has over 290 million paying subscription accounts around the world, making it the largest service of its kind by far. In contrast, Disney+ currently has about 149 million subscribers, which is actually significantly down from recent years and likely to continue dwindling.

To be fair, Netflix had a significant headstart on Disney+ (as well as other rivals like Max, Paramount+, Apple TV+, and Amazon Prime Video). It began streaming services in 2007, giving it a huge market advantage over its more traditional studio competition; for example, Disney+ only launched in 2019, while Warner Bros. Discovery stumbled through numerous false starts like HBO Go and HBO Now in an attempt to leverage its brand.

Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) looking at the sky in 'Stranger Things' Season 4's final scene
Credit: Netflix

Both Disney+ and Netflix boast numerous global hits, like Netflix’s Wednesday and Disney+’s The Mandalorian and Percy Jackson. Additionally, both own the IP to massive franchises like Stranger Things and Star Wars, as well as deep catalogs of niche content like National Geographic and Netflix’s innumerable cooking shows. But it seems that the numerous price increases, the increasing amount of advertising, and deleted content are hitting the companies where it matters: subscribers.

Related: Disney Executives Flee Company as Disney+ Streaming Continues To Lose Billions

Disney+ Loses To Local Competition

South Korea is one of the world’s fastest-growing media centers in terms of production and audience. While the country does not have the sheer population of, say, India, it is also the cultural center of global phenomenons like K-Pop, K-drama, and crossover hits like the Netflix series Squid Game.

Lee Jung-jae as Seong Gi-hun in Netflix's Squid Game Official Poster
Credit: Netflix

That makes the country incredibly important to Disney+ and Netflix, both of whom are hitting the ceiling of how many new subscribers they can achieve in North America. Not only is it vital that the services establish strongholds in countries like South Korea, but they also have to hang onto their subscribers.

According to a new report from The Korea Herald, that’s exactly what’s not happening. Information from data and insight aggregator Mobile Index indicates that both Disney+ and Netflix are actively losing subscribers to local Korean streaming services like Coupang Play, Tving, and Wavve. The data says that, as of March 2024, 57 percent of some 20.1 million streaming service users in South Korea are using local services, while only 43% use Netflix and Disney+.

Logo of coupang play featuring a stylized blue atom symbol to the left of the multicolored text "coupang play".
Credit: Coupang Play

This is in sharp contrast to a year ago, when those numbers were nearly exactly the opposite. That indicates that Disney+ and Netflix do not have the lock on Korean subscribers that they would like to have and, in fact, are losing market share.

Reportedly, much of this has to do with new, original productions being released in South Korea by Coupang Play, including the comedy-drama Boyhood and the new broadcast of the AFC Asian Cup. Similarly, Tving has seen its numbers rise against the foreign competition, with a spokesperson saying, “During the first quarter of 2024, there was a 50 percent increase in the number of paid subscribers compared to the previous quarter.

The reason is attributed to Tving’s release of hit originals such as EXchange and exclusive broadcasts of popular drama series such as Marry My Husband.”

The word "tving" in bold black letters centered on a bright red background.
Credit: Tving

Related: Bob Iger Admits Disney+ Crushed by Illegal Streaming

An anonymous insider also said that this power change in the streaming wars has to do directly with American services cracking down on account password sharing and lack of original content:

“When the policy to monetize account sharing was announced, there were critical voices among domestic users, who said they would cancel their Netflix subscriptions…Also, Disney+ has not been able to release hit titles since the release of ‘Moving.’ To keep users tethered to (streaming) platforms, there is a constant need to release new content every day or every week. Disney+, which intermittently releases big titles with famous actors every now and then, is losing subscribers in this regard.”

At a time when the Walt Disney Company constantly loses money trying to win the streaming wars against Netflix, it is telling that it can’t even win against small local services.

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