While Americans are staying home and social distancing amid the spread of coronavirus, they’re watching more television, and subscription streaming services are benefiting—particularly Netflix and Disney+.
Disney (DIS) shared in February that Disney+ had amassed 28.6 million subscribers since its launch in November, and it hasn’t updated that number since. But Forbes reported this week, using data from Antenna, that during just the March 14 to March 16 weekend—when drastic social distancing truly began in many U.S. cities—Disney+ sign-ups tripled compared to the weekend before. (On Tuesday, Disney+ launched in Europe.)
The Disney+ boost is also boosting Hasbro’s licensed toy sales, thanks in particular to the rabid popularity of the “Baby Yoda” character from the Disney+ original Star Wars show “The Mandalorian.” (On the show, the character is only called “The Child.”)
That was already the case before coronavirus, but the current increase in stay-at-home streaming has continued to stoke the trend.
“We clearly have seen that streaming has become more of a force in making connections with consumers and driving merchandising,” Hasbro (HAS) CEO Brian Goldner told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday. “That’s always been a question: Could streamed content drive merchandising? And clearly Baby Yoda has done that. We saw that in the fourth quarter with some of our product directly related to ‘The Mandalorian.’ Our pre-sales around Baby Yoda have been incredibly robust and we’re very excited to ship Baby Yoda late spring.”
Indeed, Hasbro’s Baby Yoda products won’t come out until spring (Disney didn’t want the toys anywhere online before “The Mandalorian” had premiered, so as not to ruin the surprise of the character), but they have been available for pre-order for months. And one extremely popular animatronic Baby Yoda toy won’t come until the 2020 holiday season, but sold out in pre-order on the Disney website after a single preview in February on “Good Morning America.”
Hasbro CEO Goldner says that amid coronavirus, the biggest boost Hasbro is seeing is to sales of its games, including Monopoly, Life, Operation and Play-Doh products, since kids are home from school.
But the Disney magic continues to benefit Hasbro, not just from “Star Wars” merchandise but also from “Frozen,” other Disney Princess items, and Marvel toys. Back in 2016, CNNMoney wrote that Hasbro “should rename itself Disney Toys.” This year, Hasbro extended its licensing contract with Disney for an undisclosed length of time.
Because nearly all the movie theaters in America are shut down due to coronavirus, movie studios are releasing films on streaming services earlier than planned (Disney did it with “Frozen 2,” Universal is doing it with “Trolls”), and that’s benefiting Hasbro as well.
“We’re seeing that overall Star Wars sales are performing well year-to-date, because the movie [‘Rise of Skywalker’] was incredibly popular, and then the home entertainment window has come more quickly, as has ‘Frozen 2.’ Disney has advanced those windows and made those home entertainment windows available to consumers more quickly on Disney+. We clearly see Disney+ as a major advantage to Disney and also to licensees of Disney like Hasbro.”
Hasbro stock closed Tuesday up 22%, but is still down 25% in the past month as coronavirus causes job losses and stokes fears of a weak holiday shopping season.
Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.
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