Streaming Wars: Disney Strikes Back

Matthew Barton | Design Editor

It is a period of streaming wars! Countless companies have begun to offer their own streaming platform in hopes of bringing in large profits and becoming the most widely used service. Since streaming started in the United States in 2007, Netflix has become the main name in the streaming industry. But, striking from out of nowhere, Disney has announced that they will be offering their own streaming platform! Now, with added perks and deals, Disney+ is seen as a threat to other large streaming companies. In this time of streaming turmoil, each company must be prepared for anything: including offering deals and making alliances between each other. As the streaming wars rages on, could it threaten the downfall of major companies and even cinema itself?

Streaming services have become immensely popular over the last decade. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Sling, YouTube TV, HBO Now, and many other platforms have become dominant in the entertainment world. Much like the Arms Race, each service is continually racing to add new shows, features, and deals to attract customers and beat its competitors. While each company is able to offer a variety of shows and movies, Netflix and Hulu have been the two largest platforms (in terms of members/subscribers and profit) during the streaming wars. In 2018 alone, Netflix made a revenue of $7.6 billion and Hulu made a revenue of $2.9 billion.

It may seem like, in a world where there is an abundance of options for streaming, there shouldn’t be any new companies hopping on the streaming service train and enlisting in the streaming wars. However, on Tuesday, Nov. 12, Disney will be launching their own streaming platform: Disney+. A big question that has been circling since the announcement of the service is: will Disney+ be a threat to other streaming companies? Well, the base price for just the Disney streaming service will be $6.99/month and the Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ bundle will be $12.99/month. Regardless of whether the user buys the basic or bundled plan, they will have the perks of four simultaneous streaming screens, 4K Ultra HD video quality, and Dolby immersive audio. On the Netflix plan, those perks would be included in the $16 bundle. Additionally, Disney+ offers every episode of The Simpsons along with Marvel movies, Star Wars movies, old Disney movies and shows (both animated and live action,) and Disney+ original series (the Disney equivalent to Netflix original series). Besides offering a variety of entertainment, Disney+ also hits the three requirements for a successful and popular streaming service: it has lots of ways to watch (convenience), many screens and recommendations (personalized), and the base price is on the lower end of pricing (affordable). On top of that, Disney has movies and shows for a wide range of audiences and is a vastly popular company in general, which makes it seem like Disney+ could be a force to reckon with in the streaming wars. 

With as popular as Disney is, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if it’s streaming service skyrocketed into the top three streaming services (based on users and revenue.) With properties from Fox, Marvel, Disney, Pixar, and National Geographic, there is so much to choose from and the service appeals to a huge audience range. Despite the popularity that Disney+ has gained thus far, I don’t believe that Netflix will ever become obsolete. Even if Disney+ were to “beat” in terms of revenue and subscribers, Netflix has dominated the streaming industry for so long and has made a name for itself. It makes sense for Disney+ to become extremely popular, but I don’t think it will directly kill any other streaming services because each service has their own unique set of shows or movies that don’t cross over. Want to watch Stranger Things? You need Netflix. Dying to figure out what happens on The Handmaid’s Tale? You’ll have to keep watching on Hulu. Want to see what the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe holds or who The Mandalorian is? You’ll need to get Disney+. Even though the companies are competing in the streaming wars, alliances help keep both sides strong. Disney+ may pull ahead in the streaming war, but the other companies will still stream on. 

The other major question going around is: will streaming companies out beat the movie theaters? In December of 2018, the EY created a report titled “The Relationship Between Movie Theater Attendance and Streaming Behavior” to help determine just that. The report outlined the data collected “on US moviegoers and to analyze key determinants of movie theater attendance.” The surveyors looked at the amount of people who had been to the movie theater in the past 12 months and the streaming consumption in the last 12 months. The data collected showed that the average streaming hours increased as the times going to the theatre increased and the average streaming hours decreased as the times going to the theatre decreased. From the data collected, it seems like movie theaters and streaming companies are in no direct competition; both media sources have been able to thrive despite the rise of streaming.

There is something special about going to movie theaters that streaming services can’t provide. Going to a theater to see a movie is an experience. Being in a large, dark theater with a huge screen and surround sound that makes any movie watching experience better. Sure, it’s nice to just sit in your pajamas on the couch and rewatch your favorite episodes of The Office for a few hours, but it just doesn’t compare to the theater experience. I don’t think that the experience alone is going to keep theaters alive. The other factor is the large number of movies being released each year. We have seen an influx of action and horror films in cinemas. Those movies run in theaters for months and then you have to wait about four more months for the movie to release on DVD. And just because it releases on DVD doesn’t mean that it will be added to a streaming service. So, to see the newest installment in the MCU or John Wick franchise or find out what happens in the most recent Stephen King thriller, you’ll have to go see it in the theater. And if you wait to watch the film when it comes out on DVD, you’re also supporting the DVD industry. So, yes, streaming services are extremely convenient and have a nice variety of content, but you can’t beat movie theaters and DVD companies when it comes to the newest blockbusters.

As time progresses, we will surely see more companies try their hand at a specialized streaming services, which will add more competitors in the streaming wars. Nobody knows who will come out on top during the streaming wars, but as streaming services have proven thus far, there is a bright and prosperous future ahead in the streaming business. Maybe one day the eternal streaming conflict will end, and there will be one streaming service for all to use. Then again, Disney already partially owns Hulu and ESPN and is always looking to expand their company. Perhaps they will become the media Empire and rule the galaxy of entertainment….

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