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Disney Plus vs Netflix: who will win?

Disney Plus vs Netflix
Image Credit: Disney
(Image credit: Disney Plus / Netflix / TechRadar)

Disney Plus or Netflix? While the question has been largely speculative for the past few months in the run up to the Disney Plus launch, the first wave of viewers across the US, Canada, and the Netherlands are having to choose between the Disney newcomer and still-dominant Netflix platform.

You may be thinking, aren't there too many of these OTT services these days? While Netflix carved the way, the likes of Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO Now 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 (or "Disney+") is now starting to go live in its first few territories, and as predicted there's a lot of interest around it.

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 – both services will scratch different itches, after all – but if you just need a hand comparing Netflix vs Disney Plus, with a mind to picking one over the other, here's everything you need to know about the pair of them.

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.

Image Credit: Netflix

Image Credit: Netflix

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.

If you want to find out more about the Disney Plus pricing make sure you check out our Disney Plus price guide.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

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.

Disney Plus, however, will only have the one price tier, with access to 4K and HDR content available to all subscribers – provided they have a 4K TV, of course.

Disney's ownership of and stakes in other platforms is also coming in very useful, with a bundle option to get subscriptions for Hulu and ESPN+ thrown in alongside your Disney Plus account. This is a US-only bundle, though the service is now live in Canada and the Netherlands too, with New Zealand and Australia getting access from November 19.

If you're in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, or Italy, it's mixed news: you will get Disney Plus, but not until March 31, 2020.

Disney Plus vs Netflix: features and user interface

We got some dedicated hands-on time with the Disney Plus platform when it went live for a beta in the Netherlands, and you can read all our initial thoughts in this Disney Plus review.

Nothing in the interface will particularly surprise you, with horizontal rows of content and recommended sections that algorithmically show you content likely to be of interest to you. 

Unlike Netflix's genre-based categories for comedies, action, or drama, though, Disney Plus also has buttons for five distinct 'channels' – Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic – alongside a jumble of content from the channels beneath them.

Image Credit: Disney

Image Credit: Disney

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.

Image Credit: Disney

Image Credit: Disney (Image credit: Disney)

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.

Takeaway

It's clear that Disney's streaming service has a lot going for it, with mammoth franchises like Star Wars, Marvel, and more creating a true pop culture entertainment hub.

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. Of course, not everything from Disney's big franchises are here already – only 16 Marvel movies at launch, for instance, and the Spider-Man movies likely never to join them – and we don't know exactly how the catalogue might change or expand each month, in the vein of Netflix's ongoing curation or otherwise.

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.

But if you've been persuaded by Disney Plus, here's how to cancel your Netflix subscription, once and for all.