As U.S. Subscriber Growth Slows, Disney+ Revives 7-Day Free Trial For Some Prospects

After dropping its 7-day free trial offer in June 2020 — seven months after its November 2019 launch — Disney+ is again promoting that offer, via a direct-mail piece.

The promotion was spotted by Emily Groch, director of insights and telecom competitive marketing at Comperemedia, which tracks direct mail campaigns.

Groch tweeted that the Disney+ direct mail piece (above), which drives recipients to use a code provided to respond to the offer via an area on the Disney+ site, was sent to an estimated 500,000 U.S. households.

Disney+ discontinued the free-trial offer amid robust subscriber growth, shortly before the debut of its movie version of “Hamilton” on the streamer.

Taking a free trial to watch a specific movie or series, then canceling, is a common practice.

Disney+’s long run of big leaps in paid subscribers has slowed of late, particularly in the U.S.

U.S. slowing was largely behind a smaller-than-expected increase in subscribers in the company’s fiscal second quarter ended April 3. Global Disney+ subscribers rose to 103.6 million in that quarter — up from 103.6 million in fiscal Q2 — but analysts had projected 109 million.

While Disney+ global subscribers had risen to 116 million by the third quarter — beating the 114.5 million expected by analysts — the total included just a 1-million gain in North America, to about 38 million, according to one report.

Increasingly, Disney+’s growth has been driven by India, where its Hotstar streaming subscribers rose by about 12 million, to 38 million, in the six months leading up to July.

This week, Disney CEO Bob Chapek warned during an industry conference that Disney+ “hit some headwinds” in its current fiscal fourth quarter, and is expected to see subscriber gains in the “low single-digit millions.” Some analysts had been projecting growth in excess of 10 million.

Chapek attributed the slowed growth to issues including a delay in Disney’s new Star+ streaming service, challenges with partnerships in Latin America, and pandemic-driven delays in content production and a suspension of key sports coverage asset the India Premier League.

Disney has been projecting that Disney+ will reach 230 million to 260 million global subscribers by 2024.

Disney+ raised its U.S. subscription price for the first time in March, upping it by $1, to $7.99.

The price for the Disney bundle that also includes ESPN+ and Hulu was also raised by $1, to $13.99.

After publication, a Disney spokesperson reached out to Digital News Daily to say that Disney "continues to test and evaluate different marketing, offers, and promotions to grow Disney+ – this includes occasional free trial promotions. This specific one was a limited promotional offer that went out in early August and ended earlier this month."

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