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Disney upping content spend to $33bn for 2022; plots 60 unscripted series across platforms

The Walt Disney Company is planning to increase its annual content spend to US$33 billion in 2022, which is up by $8 billion from the 2021 fiscal year’s spend of ...
November 25, 2021

The Walt Disney Company is planning to increase its annual content spend to US$33 billion in 2022, which is up by $8 billion from the 2021 fiscal year’s spend of $25 billion.

As stated in the company’s annual report, filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday (Nov. 24), “the increase is driven by higher spend to support our DTC expansion and generally assumes no significant disruptions to production due to COVID-19.”

The increased focus on Disney’s DTC offerings — which include Disney+, Hulu and ESPN Plus — comes as the company charts significant growth in revenues for the sector in fiscal 2021: a 57% increase in subscription revenue over 2020 and a 43% in ad revenues over the prior year. Together, that amounts to a 55% increase in revenues for the DTC sector in 2021, compared to a 2% increase in revenues for Disney’s linear networks.

The $33 billion sum for produced and licensed content also factors in the significant expense of sports rights.

Elsewhere in the report, the global media giant further detailed how it expects to divvy up its content spend. Disney’s General Entertainment division is set to produce or commission 60 unscripted series, and 15 docuseries or limited series, in 2022 across the company’s linear and streaming distribution platforms.

The company also plans to produce or commission 30 comedy series, 25 drama series, 10 animated series, five made-for-TV movies, and “numerous specials and shorts” for fiscal 2022, which began on October 1. Units under the General Entertainment division that produce content for the company include ABC Signature, 20th Television, Disney Branded Television, FX Productions and National Geographic Studios.

Meanwhile, the Studios division — incorporating the Walt Disney Pictures, Twentieth Century Studios, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and Searchlight Pictures banners — is earmarked to produce 50 titles, including theatrical films and episodic television, in the new fiscal year.

The $33 billion content spend is the latest sizeable sum emerging in the content “arms race” in which media companies are throwing significant resources behind acquiring and commissioning content. A report from UK-based research firm Purely estimated the content spend for global streaming services and their parent companies would hit more than $250 billion in 2021, with Netflix having set a benchmark for a $17 billion content spend for the year, and the two companies behind a media behemoth-to-be, Discovery and WarnerMedia, spending a combined $20 billion on films and programming for their linear and streaming services.

(Pictured: Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek)

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