mandalorian bo-katan disney

The Mandalorian/Star Wars

No, Disney+ didn’t lose 4 million subscribers due to ‘woke content’ or fandom backlash

The real reason has nothing to do with Star Wars or Marvel.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Disney+ is on surprisingly shaky ground right now, with subscriber numbers dropping for the second quarter in a row, layoffs expected, and several Disney projects in flux as their writers strike for fair pay.

But while “Disney+ loses 4 million subscribers” sounds ominous for such a major brand, a lot of people are misunderstanding what really happened here. Namely a subset of disgruntled Star Wars and Marvel fans, who assume Disney+ is tanking due to fandom culture wars around (among other things) diverse casting.

In reality, the drop in subscribers is mostly due to cricket, a sport that isn’t on the radar of most American Disney viewers.

As TechCrunch put it, “The main reason behind the decline was Disney+ Hotstar, which shed 8% of its subscriber base.” Hotstar is a Disney-owned streaming service that mostly operates in India, and it recently lost the rights to stream Indian Premiere League cricket. So most of Disney’s subscriber loss was due to Indian cricket fans dumping Hotstar because it no longer delivered their favorite sport.

However, this hasn’t stopped Disney detractors from co-opting the subscriber loss into ongoing discourse about Star Wars and Marvel becoming “too woke.” In the YouTube outrage ecosystem, you’ll already find people referencing She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, and the recent season of The Mandalorian as reasons for Disney’s apparent failure. (All of these titles have, of course, been targeted by sexist and/or racist fandom backlash in the past.)

Meanwhile, on Twitter, most of the reactions lay the blame on Disney+ original programming, whether it’s conspiracy theories about Marvel’s supposedly-progressive politics or general complaints about Disney’s viewing library.

This situation is a reminder that the success of a streaming service is only partially down to its flagship titles. For instance, Netflix is home to several shows with very-online fanbases (Stranger Things; Bridgerton; Love is Blind), but when subscribers quit the service en masse, it’s not necessarily a sign of a backlash against specific content—it’s linked to wider economic concerns, or competition with other streaming services.

Disney+ is home to several very visible pop-culture brands, and it’s tempting to assume that they’re the be-all and end-all of the service’s popularity. But compared to the sudden loss of millions of Indian cricket fans, quibbles over Star Wars and Marvel storytelling just don’t move the needle.

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