Disney has proudly declared that its recent remake of The Little Mermaid racked up 16 million views within its first five days on Disney+, defining “views” by the total stream time divided by the film’s runtime. According to the company, the live-action musical starring Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy is now the streaming service’s most viewed film premiere since Hocus Pocus 2 late last year.
Released in theatres on May 26, The Little Mermaid is a live-action reinterpretation of the 1989 film of the same name, featuring new songs and tweaked lyrics. Disney’s appeal to nostalgia already paid off at the box office, with The Little Mermaid earning $570 million globally during its run. This made it one of the highest grossing films in 2023 thus far.
Now it seems as though that popularity has translated into Disney+ streaming numbers, no doubt helped by millions of children enchanted by life under the CGI sea.
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Disney has historically been coy about streaming viewership numbers, typically declining to share the data on its original productions. However, it seems as though the House of Mouse is willing to bend that policy if the numbers are impressive enough — and perhaps to attract potential advertisers.
While Disney+ was ad-free at launch, the introduction of an ad-supported tier last December has likely made the company more amenable to the idea of sharing its streaming numbers, or at least the good ones. Last month Disney announced that the first episode of its original Star Wars series Ahsoka drew 14 million views, making it the most popular series on the streaming service during the week of its premiere. There were no such joyous announcements after Disney+’s April premiere of Peter Pan & Wendy.
The release of these numbers also brings the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes back to the fore.
One of the issues driving the strikes has been the push for better sharing of residuals from streamed productions. In particular, both unions have demanded that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) establish viewership-based residuals, allowing writers and performers a share in the success of popular productions. The WGA also specifically demanded “transparency regarding program views.” The AMPTP has rejected these demands.
However, Disney’s declaration of The Little Mermaid‘s popularity serves as a reminder that the company could very easily release the numbers that striking writers are requesting — if it wanted to.