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Disney+ pulls pin on free trials

Disney+ has made a controversial decision. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Disney+ has ended its free trial promotions, claiming its service is strong enough to entice subscribers without the week-long freebie. 

In a statement provided to CNET on Friday, a Disney+ spokesperson said the US$7 monthly subscription was “set at an attractive price-to-value proposition”, and that the platform has a “compelling entertainment offering on its own”. 

That means people interested in the service will no longer be able to try it out for free for a week. However, subscribers aren’t locked in - they can still cancel whenever they like. 

At AU$8.99 a month in Australia, the service is cheaper than Stan (AU$10 a month) and Netflix, (AU$9.99 - $19.99 a month). 

And it certainly seems to be paying off: Disney+ has amassed 2 million subscribers in Australia at the close of the March quarter, Roy Morgan figures revealed last month. Globally, it hit 10 million subscribers in just one day. 

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, January-March 2019, n= 12,339. January-March 2020, n= 10,852. Base: Australians aged 14+.

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source Australia, January-March 2019, n= 12,339. January-March 2020, n= 10,852. Base: Australians aged 14+.

That’s after only launching in November 2019, surpassing Amazon Prime Video and YouTuber Premium, both of which have less than 2 million subscribers. 

It took Netflix six months to hit 2 million subscribers after launching in 2015. But Netflix is still the reigning giant with 12.59 million subscribers. 

Disney+ is now Australia's fourth-most popular platform, highlighting viewer’s eagerness to check out new options, Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said. 

“The growth of subscription television services in Australia sped up in March as the nation entered a period of lockdown,” Levine said. 

“The immediate success of Disney+ provides an example of how new entrants to the market can gain a large share of existing viewers as well as contributing to a growth in the overall market at the same time,” she added. 

Of Disney+ 2 million viewers, 83 per cent already subscribe to Netflix and 45 per cent have Stan. 

“The latest results show there are millions of Australian households with two, or three, or even more subscription television services.”

Streaming revolution 

Is this the end of the movie theatre? Image: Getty

Disney’s decision comes as coronavirus pushes an international box office into an induced coma, with cinemas around the world shuttered. 

In fact, 29-minute horror film Unsubscribe shot entirely on Zoom topped the US box office on 10 June after its creators took advantage of the limited theatrical release schedule. 

And the pandemic has also shifted films online: Disney+ released Frozen II and Onward ahead of schedule and has now skipped a theatrical release for Artemis Fowl, with the spy flick set to live on the platform alone. 

The streaming platform will also release hit musical Hamilton on 3 July after it was originally slated for an October 2021 theatrical release. 

Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime still offer users a free 30-day trial, but as social distancing rules remain in place, the question is whether other platforms will follow in Disney's footsteps.

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