Just as you get used to shelling out every month for a Netflix subscription, someone like Disney has to turn around and announce a competing streaming service.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of TV streaming platforms now: While Netflix carved the way, the likes of Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Go and more have flooded the market, giving viewers more avenues for on-demand content than ever.
Disney murmured about a possible streaming service for much of 2018, with an official announcement only coming in April of this year. Originally called ‘Disney Play’, the Disney Plus service is set to launch in late 2019, and it will almost certainly make a splash.
A lot of you may wonder whether Disney Plus will be worth an additional subscription fee, or switching over entirely from your Netflix account. That will probably come down to your budget and the sort of titles you’re after – and we’re still several months from Disney Plus launch either way. In the meantime though, we’re here to run through everything you need to know about the pair of them.
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Disney Plus vs Netflix: basic overview
Netflix and Disney Plus are both on-demand streaming services for watching TV shows and films. Netflix is the one to beat for any new challenger entering the fray, with a whopping 140 million subscribers worldwide and a hugely broad content library.
There are now plenty of other streaming services online (Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video), but none have carved out quite as much of the market as Netflix, which has become a home for original drama, comedy specials, kids’ TV and animation, and a wide range of other genres.
Netflix has however relied on a lot of classic TV shows which get increasingly expensive to license – Friends, The Office, etc – and is having to learn more on its own attempts at original programming, with billions plunged into its Netflix Original productions like Stranger Things and Master of None.
The rise of Disney Plus is also removing a lot of Disney-owned content from the service, such as any films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Netflix’s popular Marvel TV shows (Dardevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist). Disney makes serious money (an estimated $300 million) putting its films and properties on Netflix and other services, so it must have pretty high profit forecasts for its own service to so goodbye to those earnings.
We spoke to analyst Stephan Paternot, CEO of film finance marketplace Slated, for his take on Disney's prospects, and we're told "Disney will probably utterly dominate across the board", due to the strength of its various subsidiary services like ESPN.
"It’s simply breathtaking how well positioned they are with ESPN (leader in live sports), Disney+ (a deep, and growing library of the biggest family friendly franchise brands of all time), and Hulu (which is the closest thing to Netflix and is slowly gaining on them, in part thanks to live and ad-supported tiers)."
Paternot also commented on Disney's ability to "cross-monetize" its various brands and assets between film, TV, music and merchandizing giving it a competitive price advantage over Netflix, and therefore the freedom to take bigger financial risks.
Disney Plus vs Netflix: price and availability
To start, Disney Plus will definitely undercut Netflix on price. Disney Plus will cost $5.99 per month (around £4.60 / AU$8.55) per month or $69.99 per year (£54.70 / AU$99.80) in the US. That's a decent amount under Netflix’s $8.99 (£7.99 / AU$9.99) per month Basic plan.
Netflix has three total price tiers, with the Standard plan allowing HD viewing and up to two screens being watched at the same time – while the Premium plan ups this to four screens and UHD / 4K resolution viewing. See our guide to Netflix plans for all the pros and cons for each one.
We haven’t heard anything about pricing tiers for Disney Plus, but we’d be very surprised for the service not to support 4K, and it’s likely this will come at a premium. Other Disney-owned platforms like ESPN+ (and Hulu, which Disney has a 60% stake in) could well be available via a discounted group package, or purchased as individually priced add-ons through the Disney Plus portal.
Disney Plus will be launching November 12 in the US, though we expect a wider global rollout shortly after, possibly in the new year.
Disney Plus vs Netflix: features and user interface
We have little to go on for Disney Plus' interface, aside from the below screenshot Disney shared earlier this year. What we do know, however, is that unlike Netflix's genre-based categories, Disney Plus has buttons for five distinct 'channels' – Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic – and a jumble of content from the channels beneath them.
Netflix notably has a trailer auto-playing at the top of its home page, but it looks like Disney plans a rolling banner ad instead. Then again, months ahead of release there's a lot that could change in the meantime.
We expect some kind of algorithm for suggesting content on the home page, though the layout makes us think things will be organized by production studio rather than say comedy vs drama or horror.
Like Netflix, we know Disney Plus will be available on the usual round of mobile, laptop, and smart TV apps – though a recent Disney presentation also let slip plans to come to Nintendo Switch, which Netflix is still curiously absent from.
Disney Plus vs Netflix: content
The reduced price is largely down to the small content library Disney will have at release. Disney’s CEO Robert Iger stated that “our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is. This is in part reflective of the fact that it will have substantially less volume."
While Disney has access to a lot of high-profile franchises (Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, etc), it won't have the endless library of content we expect from Netflix (around 6,000 titles). We should however get every Disney film ever made on the service, possibly from day one: that's everything from the original Snow White and Aladdin movies to the Star Wars films and entirety of Pixar. New Disney films will then be added to the service within the following year after a theatrical release.
Disney is also producing a number of new shows for the service, including a live-action Star Wars series written and produced by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book) called The Mandalorian. Not to mention spin-off shows featuring Tom Hiddleston's iconic Marvel trickster, Scarlet Witch and Vision, and possibly Hawkeye.
There's clearly plenty of scope for Disney to leverage its existing IP beyond the big screen, while its recent purchase of 20th Century Fox will also bring the entire Simpsons catalogue and more to the service.
Therein lies Netflix's greatest problem: franchises. Netflix licenses a lot of classic shows like the Office, Friends, and Arrested Development, but is trying to build up a library of original content to avoid difficult licensing negotiations and hefty distribution fees.
Paternot suggested Netflix would do fine "in the short to medium run, but were likely to be pushed into a "narrower content lane" as they lose out on Disney-branded franchises.
With titles like Orange is the New Black, Master of None, Bojack Horseman, and GLOW on the Netflix platform, however, there are still some real must-watch titles not going anywhere. Not to mention over 100 Emmy nominations for various shows, and recent Oscars for last year's incredible Roma.
Netflix as a whole can feel like a matter of quantity over quality, but there are enough high-profile shows and variety to ensure most viewers will remain catered for.
It's hard to say for sure before Disney Plus is officially released, but it's clear that Disney's streaming service will have some high-quality titles, both new and old, to attract fans to the service.
The monthly subscription price is already pretty attractive, and gives you a month's worth of content for the price of buying a standalone Disney movie off iTunes or Rakuten TV. But we don't yet know exactly what we're getting for the money, especially if those outside of the US end up getting fewer titles or a less attractive price point.
It's likely that Netflix will keep the edge with its sheer number of titles, and therefore more likelihood of having something for each of its users. Even with Disney's various acquisitions, Disney Plus is likely to be more of a niche proposition, and if you're not a die-hard Marvel fan or a parent needing some distracting Disney cartoons, it's hard to see Disney Plus becoming part of your daily routine in the same way as Netflix.
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