Down By the Old Mill Stream...
The other day, Disney announced its news streaming service Disney Plus which will launch November 12. Pricing will be $7 a month or $70 for an annual subscription, which most news reports commented how it compares favorably to $13 a month for Netflix's most popular tier. The company said that they may eventually bundle Disney Plus with other of their services like Hulu and ESPN Plus. During the first year, they expect to release 25 new series and 10 movies, documentaries and specials. Overall, the Disney Plus library will have over 7,500 TV episodes and 500 movies.
It seems like a fascinating venture, with some plus and minuses. On the plus side, Disney has a huge vault they can draw from, and recently bought the film division of 20th Century Fox, and now have that library, too -- which include the Star Wars franchise, the Avenger franchise and all 30 years of The Simpsons. And among the new productions for the service are a Star Wars spinoff series, The Mandalorian and prequel to Rogue One (for which Diego Luna will reprise his role of Cassian Andor). There will be a series Marvel Studios series Loki, that stars Tom Hiddleston reprising his role,; and a Pixar series Monsters at Work, that takes off after the events of the original Monsters Inc. movie.
On the negative side -- or at least left out of most news stories is that the $7 a month is an "initial" price, most likely to get interest and subscriptions, and it seems probably that that will rise, and the cost-difference with Netflix will narrow. In addition, Netflix has $9 stream plan, as well, which is much closer to Disney's "initial" offering. And a significantly larger catalog -- 1,569 TV shows and 4,010 movies. (Keep in mind that the "7,500" figure for Disney is episodes, not shows. If each Netflix TV series only has two years of 22 episodes each -- and keep in mind that old shows often had around 35 episodes a years and most not only ran for more than just two years, with some like Gunsmoke and Bonanza running for decades -- that works out to 70,000 episodes.
But further, it only compares with Netflix and leaves out Amazon. An Amazon Prime subscription averages out to $10 a month. And that not only includes a very large catalog, including international TV shows -- but most importantly includes free 2-day shipping on Amazon (and free next-day delivery on orders over $35), along with music streaming, cloud photo storage, Prime Now with free grocery and restaurant delivery within range, and more.
And no one should expect immediately competition with Netflix. Disney predicts between 60-90 million subscribers in five years -- while Netflix currently has 140 million subscribers. Disney also says it expect so spend $2 billion a year over most of the next five years, while Netflix spends around $12 billion on content a year.
This is not to say that the Disney Plus service isn't intriguing and won't be a success. In fact, it's very fascinating and seems poised to do well. But as a complimentary service to Netflix and Amazon Prime, rather than one that can knock them out of the box. Mainly, it's to say that most coverage of Disney Plus was pretty sketchy in its description of the landscape.
Besides which, who know how that landscape may be drastically changed in five years.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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