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Four Powerful Lessons from the Disney+ Launch

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 On 12th November, the most awaited streaming event happened - Disney launched their live-streaming service, Disney Plus, and everyone went nuts. 

Well, almost everyone. 

For just $4.99/month, you could now rewatch all the old Disney classics, as well as, new exciting content which promised to be even better

Disney Plus received such an overwhelming response and massive traffic, it’s service crashed on launch day. And since it’s launch, it’s been going strong. In just 2 weeks, Disney Plus has been downloaded 15.5 millions times and averages 25.6 million sessions per day. This shows that not only people are downloading this latest live-streaming app, but spending a considerable amount of time on it, as well. 

So what can brands learn from Disney Plus’s stupendous launch success?

1. Embrace episodic content

“We're just getting started so it made sense to build our fan base with episodic content coming out once a week in a more traditional model, because we felt that if we put everything out at once it would be harder for us to build the audience, rather than having people tuning in.” 

President of Content at Disney Plus, Ricky Strauss

While Netflix makes full seasons available for binge, Disney + is embracing the more traditional model of episodic content. There’s a simple reason for that  - they want to build their audience first and get them hooked on to weekly episodic content, before adopting the binge approach. 

As a business owner, if you haven’t started using video content for marketing yet, or you’ve been using it, but haven’t received the results you were expecting, rethink your approach and try experimenting with episodic content. All the smart brands are embracing this approach now. 

National Geographic came out with their ‘Explorer’ series on IGTV.

IKEA’s ‘Home Tour’ series has been a smashing success on YouTube.

“Reaching individuals and answering questions with an episodic video series can help you differentiate your company from the rest of the pack.”


Brands are also scrambling to partner with video streaming platforms like HULU and Netflix to market their episodic video ads, as ad spending on digital TV was projected to increase by 40% to $2 billion last year. Farmers Insurance launched a 3 episode infotainment (a mix of entertainment and brand information) ad on HULU to engage consumers. 

“I think we will see a lot of brands starting to develop their own episodic series like how-tos, educational, behind-the-scenes, and much more. Digital channels like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and of course YouTube, have placed the power of content creation in the hands of users, which includes brands. Brands are going to really find new ways to push their message in a more thoughtful, editorial way.” 

Devika Rao, president of O’Neill Communications.

2. Market aggressively prior to launching

With the holiday season (and black friday + cyber monday sales) just round the corner and Frozen 2’s theatrical launch 10 days away, Disney Plus couldn’t have chosen a better date to launch at. 

Disney knew it had larger than life competitors - Netflix, HULU, Amazon Prime - and to compete in the streaming world, it needed the best launch possible. Ricky Strauss, president for content and marketing at Disney Plus, described their launch marketing as “a synergy campaign of a magnitude that is unprecedented in the history of the Walt Disney Company.”

And that’s what happened. Their launch was so successful, their system crashed. They had 10 million sign-ups by the second day and Disney now expects to have between 90 million paid subscribers by 2024.

To prep for the launch, they’d been aggressively cross-promoting Disney Plus not just on several digital platforms, such as social videos on Instagram, (with a combined follower base of over a billion users), but also ABC (their corporate sibling). 

Their marketing efforts could be seen offline, too, with Walt Disney buses showing sneak-peak screenings of exclusive Disney show series onboard, pep rallies in their stores, retail employees wearing lanyards with QR codes to Disney Plus signup page, and so much more. Their marketing blitz left everyone incredulous, and the results were incredible. 

This is what brands need to do in 2020 and beyond. Before launching any product, service, or your episodic video content, market aggressively. Leverage offline and online platforms both and try to create as much awareness as you can before the ultimate launch. 

3. Know your audience

Josef Adalian rightly says, ‘Disney+ isn’t just a digital depository for the Disney library; it’s a temple at which the Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars faithful can gather and worship.’

Unlike Netflix or the upcoming HBO Max, Disney does not claim or want to be a one-stop television shop for viewers of all ages and interests. 

It already has a USP - nostalgia.

Disney Plus has actually played to their advantage by limiting their audience to people who deeply care about Disney - they’ve managed to build a fiercely loyal and highly engaged user base that will stick with Disney till it’s last days. It also sets them apart from other streaming giants and helps them market aggressively to an already warm and welcoming audience.

For brands, this is a great lesson in marketing. Get really specific on who your target audience is and then target them with concentrated marketing efforts. A small band of people loyal to you and your brand will eventually bring in more sales, convert easier, and conduct better word of mouth marketing, than a lot of random people who know and care nothing about your brand.   

4. Listen to your audience and test every little thing

“Your analytics will tell you exactly what works and what doesn’t for that account specifically so you can optimize your presence as you go along!” - Lilach Bullock

Disney is a keen learner - they haven't put all this time and billions into a project that they’ll let fail. They’re looking at 60 to 90 millions sign-ups by 2024 and they’re willing to do everything that will help them get there - that means testing every little (or big) step they take to optimize customer experience, their service, and ultimately increase signups. 

One small example is this Disney Plus user complaining about a lack of a ‘Continue Watching’ feature. 


Disney heard this user plea, and within a few days introduced this feature.

They’re also super-active on their social channels and closely monitoring all customer complaints, requests, and suggestions. This is exactly what all brands need to do. Listen to your audience, work on their suggestions, and constantly test everything.  

Competition is fierce and it’s time to step up your marketing

A lot of big brands have launched this year and many others are planning to launch in 2020. Keep a close eye on their marketing activities and their launches, learn from them and experiment with those tactics. 

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