A top Disney investor wants the company's movies with blockbuster potential, including Marvel Studios' twice-delayed Black Widow, to bypass movie theaters for a streaming premiere on Disney+. Days before The Walt Disney Company announced a restructuring that would immediately shift its "primary focus" to streaming via its Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu platforms, the company sent Pixar's Soul straight-to-streaming for a Christmas Day release on Disney+ without Mulan's $29.99 Premier Access fee. Dan Loeb, the hedge fund manager for Third Point with roughly a $1 billion stake in the company, says sending high-profile films like Black Widow to Disney+ would attract new subscribers while retaining current customers.
"What Netflix has is this immense subscriber base that allows it to invest in an enormous amount of content and amortize that to get more subscribers," Loeb told Variety. "Disney isn't there yet, but they need to get there as quickly as possible. If they don't get critical mass in their subscriber base, they will be permanently disadvantaged versus Netflix."
Disney has already surpassed 60 million subscribers since launching Disney+ in November 2019. In August, Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed the streamer reached its five-year goal in just eight months, putting the service ahead of a forecast predicting 200 million subscribers by 2025.
To move the streamer closer to Netflix's 193 million paid subscribers, Loeb urges Disney to skip theaters and instead send 2021-dated films like Black Widow to Disney+.