The announcement was made on the sidelines of Thursday’s Walt Disney Co. third quarter earnings filings and had been widely expected since Disney last year outlined an expansion roadmap for the service.
The current Disney Plus service in Japan will be expanded to feature additional general entertainment content in October 2021. This is understood to mean the addition of Star-branded content.
Within the Asia-Pacific region, Disney’s streaming service is currently available in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Singapore, where it is branded as Disney Plus, and in India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand where it is branded as Disney Plus Hotstar.
Analysis firm, Media Partners Asia forecasts that Disney Plus will be able to achieve close to five million subscribers in these three markets by the end of 2022. It forecasts that revenues could hit an annualized $330 million by that point.
“The response towards Disney Plus across Asia Pacific has exceeded our expectations, as consumers seek diverse entertainment content and are drawn to our portfolio of brands and franchises,” said Luke Kang, president, The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific in a prepared statement. “We are pleased with the subscriber growth and partnerships forged in markets.”
In Thailand, the streaming service has topped app store charts since its launch on June 30, 2021, and in Indonesia and Malaysia, it has quickly established itself as a leading SVOD service.
Nevertheless, Disney Plus will face significant competition as it seeks growth in Asia. The region is home to established multinational streaming services including Viu and the smaller Catchplay, which both boast large volumes of Asian content. Southeast Asia is also where the powerful Chinese platforms Tencent Video (branded as WeTv in some territories) and iQiyi have targeted their first significant overseas plays.
South Korea, which is currently a Netflix stronghold and where local streamers Tving, Waave, Coupang and Watcha are already present, is this year expected to also see the rollout of HBO Max and Apple TV Plus.
“In Korea, existing content could move from the TVOD offerings of local telcos to SVOD, though we’d expect Disney Plus to continue to work with telco partners in the country,” said MPA principal Vivek Couto. “We also see Disney Plus investing with meaningful scale in Korean and Japanese content, which will help their offering and be good news for producers.”
Variety's Patrick Frater contributed to this post.