Disney Eyes Wide-Ranging Membership Program Like Amazon Prime

The program would offer discounts or special perks across streaming, theme parks, resorts, and merchandise — and make Disney+ shoppable.
ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 14: General views of the Disneyland Resort on August 14, 2022 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Disneyland Resort
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The Walt Disney Company is expected to launch a membership program similar to Amazon Prime.

Per a Wall Street Journal report, the company is currently exploring a program to offer discounts or special perks to encourage subscribers to spend more on streaming services and merchandise and at theme parks, and resorts. Experts are comparing the proposed program to Amazon Prime, which includes free two-day retail shipping, Whole Foods discounts, and the video streaming service, Prime Video, for a monthly or annual fee. The WSJ report added that according to sources, the rumored program is being informally referred to as “Disney Prime” behind closed doors. It will not actually be named that, sources stressed. Talks about the potential program are in the early stages.

To note, Amazon has a market cap of approximately $1.3 trillion, where Disney’s market cap is slightly over $200 billion. In short, Amazon is worth 6.5 Disney companies combined, based on the values of outstanding shares in each company (so, not counting cash on hand or debts accrued). The “Disney Prime” model would be a move to jumpstart the Disney fandom once more.

Disney’s parks, experiences, and products division has been recovering from the pandemic. In fiscal-year 2020 (Disney’s fiscal year ends on September 30), the segment got $17 billion in revenue, down from 2019’s haul of $26.2 billion. The following fiscal year Disney’s parks, experiences, and consumer products brought in only $16.6 billion. Through just nine months thus far in fiscal 2022, the division has drawn nearly $21.3 billion.

Walt Disney Co. has two upcoming major announcement days, Disney+ Day on September 8, which then leads into the highly anticipated D23 convention with new announcements from Marvel, Pixar, and more platforms.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been supporting cross-selling techniques for customers, saying earlier this year the company has an emphasis on becoming a “unique synergy machine, or franchise flywheel.” The expected initiative could provide Walt Disney Co. with valuable consumer information as well as expand on per-customer profits.

“Technology is giving us new ways to customize and personalize the consumer experience so that we are delivering entertainment, experiences and products that are most relevant to each of our guests,” Disney CCO Kristina Schake said in a statement shared with IndieWire. “Disney is more than a brand to our consumers, it’s a lifestyle, and we are exploring how to better serve them across our many touchpoints. A membership program is just one of the exciting ideas that is being explored as we consider ways to marry the physical and digital worlds to create the next generation of great Disney storytelling and experiences.”

The current special program offerings include D23 Official Fan Club, which costs $99.99 to $129.99 a year and includes access to exclusive events and merchandise. The program offers members a discounted three-year subscription to Disney+. The “Disney Prime” membership, though, would be targeted to more “casual” customers, per the WSJ.

Disney is additionally currently working to allow Disney+ subscribers to shop merchandise within the streaming platform by scanning a QR code to purchase branded T-shirts, themed accessories, or children’s costumes associated with select shows. The QR codes will link to the Shop Disney website from Disney+. One example includes merchandise tie-ins like an exclusive Disney+ toy version of a “darksaber” from “The Mandalorian,” available only to Disney+ subscribers through the streamer. The retail feature on Disney+ will be rolled out as soon as this year.

In the three-month period ending July 2, Disney+ gained 14.4 million new subscribers, bringing its total to 152.1 million. However, Disney+ changed its growth forecast, saying it now expects to have 215 million subscribers instead of the originally estimated 245 million subscribers by September 2024, partially due to losing the right to air Indian cricket competitions for an international audience.

In addition to evaluating the Amazon Prime model, Disney executives have also eyed Apple One, the bundle of cloud storage, AppleTV+, and Apple Arcade. Walmart also recently announced Paramount+ will be free for Walmart+ members who pay $98 per year. Disney is similarly looking to add perks to the “Disney Prime” membership program from third parties, like discounted tickets for Disney shows on Broadway.

Tony Maglio contributed reporting.

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