4 ways Disney Plus could beat Netflix – and 4 ways it could fall behind

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Disney Plus is now live in its first few territories – the United States, for one – and it's landed with an impressive 10 million subscribers at launch. Disney's eventual target is a massive 60-90 million subscribers globally.

It's a shame Disney Plus UK won't be rolling out until March 31, 2020, but there’s still plenty that the House of Mickey is doing right. From high resolution streaming to a nostalgia-packed launch catalogue, Disney Plus is undoubtedly the biggest TV streaming service launch in years.

UPDATE: Now the streaming service is finally here, take a look at our Disney Plus review. Check out our Disney Plus early verdict including the best shows, movies and how to sign-up. We've also revealed our top three Disney Plus titles that we just can't get enough of right now.

Obviously it’s not a fair comparison in some ways; when Netflix first launched its OTT service, there simply wasn’t the same market for streaming that there is now. And Disney has the kind of content catalogue that most platforms can only dream of having at launch.

Now that Disney Plus is live, we've put both streaming services side-by-side, to see where the House of the Mouse has the edge over Netflix, as well as the areas where it could use some work.

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

+ Single tier pricing

Single. Tier. Pricing. We’ve gotten so used to streaming services with various pricing plans and subscription models – whether Netflix’s Basic, Standard and Premium plans, or Hulu’s ad-supported tiers – that the single tier for the Disney Plus price feels refreshingly simple. For just $6.99 / AU$8.99 (around £5) you get access to the whole library, with no caveats or catches outside of your territory.

It's worth checking out the bundle options, though, which throw in Hulu and ESPN+ alongside the Disney subscription.

+ 4K HDR for all

Sure, not everything on Disney Plus is in 4K resolution, or HDR (high dynamic range), but the premium video technologies are now found on an increasing number of content providers – with enough 4K TVs in use to really warrant it. By including these features in the single price tier, Disney is ensuring anyone who wants to access that level of picture quality can. And the series has arrived with the original Star Wars trilogy in 4K for the first time, which is a huge win. The onslaught of new Marvel and Pixar titles will only increase the value of 4K to the subscription package.

Image Credit: Disney

Image Credit: Disney (Image credit: Disney)

+ Content from the dawn of time

Well, not quite. But with TV shows and films going all the way back to the 1930s – starting with Snow White & The Seven Dwarves – there’s a spread of content unlike anything else you’ll find online.

You may not want to watch a lot of the older stuff, aside from a few curios and classics, but to get such a comprehensive historical catalogue of Disney branded titles is nothing short of a marvel.

+ Blockbuster-level exclusive shows

Somewhere where Disney Plus has an advantage: it’s already a content creator. Whereas the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime started producing shows and films to circumvent licensing fees and gain more of a brand identity, Disney has decades' worth of production experience and hordes of studios it can leverage to create for the service that will keep fans coming back and subscribing.

The Mandalorian Trailer #2

Image Credit: Disney  (Image credit: Disney / Lucasfilm)

We’re already seeing this with the new Star Wars TV shows on Disney Plus, including launch title The Mandalorian – and Marvel shows focusing on Loki, Hawkeye, and The Falcon & The Winter Soldier. (Not to mention new animated series and spin-offs from a host of lesser-known characters, even including Forky from Toy Story 4.) But with massively expanded MCU and Star Wars universes, there are plenty of fans desperate to consume all the lore that they can, and Disney Plus can give it to them.

But positives aside, what could Disney Plus end up doing wrong?

– Restricted releases

If you’re focusing on all the things Disney Plus gives you easy access to, don't forget that Disney can also restrict that access elsewhere. We’ve already heard about American movie theaters losing rights to screen classic 20th Century Fox movies like The Fly, Omen, or Alien, and there’s a clear knock-on effect for film enthusiasts who don’t want to settle for a living room experience. Bad blood over this seems certain.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

– Same old, same old

Disney Plus is likely to live and die on its tentpole franchises, including Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar. But the danger of producing so much content within these channels is that Disney ends up fatiguing its audience with a one-note monoculture of endlessly similar sequels and instalments.

Disney’s acquisition of so many studios and IP, notwithstanding the advantages it gives to Disney Plus subscribers, could easily oversaturate the market with Disney-minded entertainment and end up being a dangerous thing for diversity across the market.

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

– Not so global launches

Disney Plus could be a victim of its own hype, in that the service won’t be launching worldwide even though there’s already worldwide interest.

We now have a launch date for Disney Plus UK and other territories in Europe (France, Italy, Spain, and Germany) in March 2020, but the delay on a hugely-hyped service, especially with the exclusive The Mandalorian TV show, seems a missed opportunity. Avoiding spoilers for that show is pretty difficult. Many viewers won’t have the same choice of streaming services, and may be harder to attract later on if Netflix and Amazon Prime continue to get their claws in.

Image Credit: Disney

Image Credit: Disney (Image credit: Disney)

– Running out of content

As much as it’s exciting to see hundreds of classic Disney films and shows, hundreds will only get Disney so far. Netflix boasts around 8,000 total titles, while Amazon Prime has over 14,000 TV shows alone (via Business Insider).

Disney’s long-running Twitter thread of launch titles didn’t even get near 1,000, and it will take a while before Disney will have a comparatively sized catalogue. As much as exciting as the service seems at launch, we can’t shake off the feeling that the excitement could be hard to keep going with some speedy growth after the first few months (when people have likely watched the titles they already wanted to).

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.