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The Biggest Films of the Year Were Direct-to-SVOD

Hamilton, Soul, Wonder Woman 1984 — and their impact on Streaming

The second half of 2020 opened with Hamilton’s release on Disney+ and culminated with WW84 and Soul, which premiered Christmas Day on their respective services. These titles — originally intended for exclusive theatrical runs — served instead as big direct-to-streaming bets by Disney+ and HBO Max.

Subscriber Acquisition

WW84 and Hamilton were the most impactful SVOD releases of the year, in terms of Subscriber Acquisition during their respective opening weekends. WW84 drove more Sign-ups in its opening weekend than any other release Hamilton generated 71% as many; and Soul, 35%.

Because HBO Max eliminated its Free Trial in advance of WW84, all of these Sign-ups were for paid Subscriptions, compared to earlier releases for which some of the Sign-ups did not convert to paid Subscribers (Disney+ similarly eliminated its free trial offer in advance of Hamilton, and has not restored it).

Note: this analysis includes only net new HBO Max Sign-ups and not Activations.


Nearly a quarter of Subscribers who joined Disney+ on Hamilton’s opening weekend cancelled within one month. Three months later, 59% of Hamilton Subscribers remained Subscribed to the service.

For reference, 69% of Disney+ Subscribers who joined in June 2020 remained Subscribed three months later — compared to 70% for HBO Max and 77% for Netflix in the same time period.


Unlike the Box Office, success of direct-to-SVOD films cannot only be measured by the number of people willing to pay the price of admission. While acquiring Subscribers is important to both Disney+ and HBO Max, retaining these customers is critical to success.

Direct-to-SVOD Blockbusters have proven to meaningfully drive new Subscriptions. Looking forward, ANTENNA will monitor the loyalty of these cohorts — as well as other key inputs such as Plan Term, Price, and Distribution Channel — to measure the comprehensive impact of these bets.

Brendan Brady is a Content Strategy Associate at ANTENNA, a measurement and analytics company providing insight into purchase behavior and subscription metrics across the new media landscape.



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