Noah Isherwood, Campus Carrier asst. arts and living editor
On Nov 12, Disney will enter the world of streaming services when it rolls out Disney Plus, set to be a major rival of Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video. Disney Plus will carry all of Disney’s own content, as well as offerings from Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm, all of which are owned by Disney.
The world of online entertainment is a rapidly evolving and quickly growing environment. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, subscriptions to online video streaming services surpassed cable subscriptions worldwide for the first time last year. Having a Netflix account has become fairly ubiquitous in modern culture, and many people have other accounts as well, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube Red and many others. Most TV channels are creating streaming services as a way to supplement their cable content as well. Streaming is the future of visual entertainment, and few would argue that point.
Netflix is currently the leader in video streaming, according to The New York Times. They offer the most high-quality movies and shows in the industry, but that may change very soon. Over the past several years, Disney has been expanding its already large family of entertainment companies. Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilm, 20th Century Fox, ABC, FX, National Geographic, and ESPN are all Disney properties, and Disney now has controlling interest in Hulu. Many movies and programs produced by the above companies are already confirmed for Disney Plus, and it is technically possible that any of their content could be a part of the new service.
What does all of this mean for the consumer? If one is a Disney fan, then the new service may be very attractive; all of the classic titles plus new content are all in one place. But those with other streaming subscriptions may feel a little more wary, especially if they are fans of their chosen service’s original content.
The amount of original content on diverse channels and streaming services in recent years is huge. According to the cable network FX, at least 487 original scripted television programs were produced and aired on numerous channels and streaming platforms in 2017. In the past two years that number has only grown. Each major streaming service has its own list of A-list offerings: Hulu is known for “Harlots” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Amazon Prime features “The Boys,” “Carnival Row” and “Jack Ryan;” Netflix is known for “Stranger Things,” “Orange is the New Black” and “13 Reasons Why.” These are just a very few examples of award winning and immensely popular shows, and movies are another category entirely.
Disney is in a place to dominate the original content game. They already control Hulu, and they have announced many new shows that will provide a foundation for Disney Plus, including several Star Wars and Marvel spinoffs. A major example of Disney’s growing power over original shows is “The Simpsons.” “The Simpsons” has been one of the most popular programs in television history, with its 30 seasons providing numerous references that have squarely established themselves in pop culture. Disney’s recent deal with Fox saw the Simpson family move into the House of Mouse, and this means that creative control over this culturally significant show now belongs to Disney.
Another thing for the Netflix subscriber to consider is the uncertain future of Disney properties on Netflix. According to an IndieWire report, Netflix is readying itself to lose all the Disney properties it currently carries, at least until 2026. The legal issues surrounding these so-called “Streaming Wars” are incredibly complex and may seem confusing to consumers, but they directly influence those same consumers’ entertainment choices.
A direct-to-consumer trend is emerging among the larger entertainment companies. Disney Plus is taking the lead in this trend, but Warner Brothers is also planning a new streaming service of their own. Many shows and movies that Netflix once carried will be taken away and placed on those direct-to-consumer services. For several years, Netflix has been the most diverse streaming service around, and consumers have become used to nearly all of their favorite shows and movies being available on Netflix. What consumers are going to see in the next few years is something of a wholesale shift in what shows and movies are going to be available on which streaming platforms.
Disney Plus is groundbreaking in the world of streaming, not because of a new setup or strategy, but because of the sheer scope of the control that Disney will have over the entertainment processes and industry. They are able to produce and control an immense amount of entertainment options, and the sheer size of their corporation allows them to undersell their product more than any of their competitors. Disney Plus is set to cost $7 per month, as compared to HBO’s $14 and Netflix’s $16. This lower price combined with the massive amount of content seems to be preparing Disney for domination.
There are many different perspectives from which to view the “Streaming Wars.” The perspective of the consumer remains blurry, and it may be some time before anyone is able to make a truly well-informed decision about which service is best for them.