Disney shakes off pandemic hit, transforms into a 'direct-to-consumer dream' rivaling Netflix

Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Experiences, speaks during a media preview of the D23 Expo 2019 in Anaheim, California, Aug. 22, 2019.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Disney has pressed fast forward on its path to becoming a streaming giant that could dethrone Netflix.

Not only did the media giant report 100 million paid subscribers across its streaming offerings, Disney just announced a new international service under the Star brand in 2021. What's more, Disney said a live-action "Mulan" will go straight to Disney+, a glimpse of a possible video-on-demand feature.

The slew of good news and specific expansion plans surprised and delighted Wall Street. Analysts applauded the move to accelerate growth in its streaming business as its theme parks, broadcast and TV networks have been hard hit due to the pandemic. When those businesses eventually return, that could mean good things for the stock long-term, they believe. 

"The key advantage Disney has is its ability to attach Star to Disney+," Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger said in a note Wednesday. "Put together, Star plus Disney+ theoretically offer the same potential full-rounded entertainment service as Netflix. We expect Disney will price that bundle at par or below Netflix." 

The analyst also called Disney "a new DTC (direct to consumer) dream."