In 2017, Disney announced its plans to pull its library from Netflix and move forward with its own streaming service. The company would invest billions into its digital TV platform in lieu of revenue from Netflix. Two years later, the introduction of Disney+ marks the beginning of the streaming wars.


Photo illustration/animation by Derreck Johnson – Slate.com

The landscape of television differs from its traditional roots. While consumers increasingly break away from cable, notable television giants – like HBO, Apple and others (in a market once dominated by Netflix) – have entered the ring to battle for our eyes and our dollars. A new business model for TV is becoming apparent: one driven by devices instead of packages. It is funded by subscriptions, not advertising. Many assert Disney is merely dipping into a heavily oversaturated market, greedy for similar success achieved by Netflix. While the competition is fierce, especially with the introduction of Apple TV and future services from NBC and WarnerMedia, Disney+ may stand as the winner.

Netflix and streaming go together like Adobe and Photoshop. What it popularized, however, has not been perfected. There is an innumerable amount of content on the platform, yet it has real and damaging flaws. Its biggest is the constant removal of beloved, fan-favorite shows for its less well-received “Netflix specials.” Despite these issues, Netflix remains a giant of its industry with an ever-expanding array of film and TV. Can Disney+ disrupt this?

For the modest price of $6.99 USD a month, customers will have their pick of the entertainment giant’s large and famous collection. Unlike Netflix and Apple TV, Disney offers from more restricted pool. Its offerings pull from the family-friendly classic content: Pixar films, Star Wars, Marvel and its own productions. Shows like Game of Thrones, The Crown and Fleabag won’t be available on Disney+. But this is not a downside. Disney has had a significant monopoly in the entertainment industry for decades. Generations of people have grown up knowing, watching and loving its films and TV. While Disney+ may not generate the same variety as broader streamers like HBOMax or CraveTV, it can rely on conquering a market that knows and loves its work.

Instant access has killed off a necessary element of television: the ease. The medium is no longer simple fare broadcast in our living rooms after dinner. The sheer volume of available shows has made TV another thing we have to keep up with. This has been exacerbated by social media, and the increasing influence of film and television on socio-cultural and political conversations. Yet, no one is expecting Disney+ to spark a conversation surrounding race, gender issues or other political issues. On the contrary Disney+ is giving us what we are familiar with – not what we must binge lest we fall behind (and get spoiled by chatty coworkers.) By narrowing its scope, Disney+ has created a unique selling point with its familiar content. For a similar price to other services, subscribers can revel in Marvel blockbusters, family friendly movies and beloved classics.

The projected success of Disney+ is rooted in its affordability, array of well-known classics and the cult franchises Marvel and Star Wars. In addition, the success of Disney+ rests of the company’s Midas touch. Disney is as famous for its effective marketing as it is for Mickey Mouse. Disney+ can generate more than it made with licensing with Netflix by pulling its customers deeper into the Disney universe.  For example, Marvel fanatics could see the next movie in cinemas at a special discount and earlier than other viewers.  As the streaming service becomes available to millions of homes across America with its Verizon deal, Disney is swiftly establishing itself as an essential entertainment provider for families.

In addition, it is not weighed down by industry pressure. Other providers like Netflix and HBO Max rely on critical reception and industry awards to increase viewership. Initial reviews can make or break shows–something Disney+ can relax about, considering most of its content is already public knowledge. Not only does the corporation possess gigantic superhero movie franchises, it can also rest on the back of its original catalog.  In the long term, Disney+ stands to establish itself as a key competitor of the streaming wars.

Television is a medium constantly in flux. It’s getting hard to distinguish just how many streaming services want a stake in your bank balance. How does Disney+ fit into this equation? With a library of beloved hits, nostalgic movies and cult movies, Disney+ crafts a nostalgic, fan-frenzied and emotional connection in users fatigued by broader, general interest platforms. Will Disney+ take over the space dominated by Netflix? Nothing is certain.

All we can do is sit back, press play and watch.

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[1] “Disney+? HBO Max? The New Streaming Giants Explained ….” 8 Nov. 2019, https://www.pcmag.com/feature/367417/disney-hbo-max-the-new-streaming-giants-explained. Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.
[2] “Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and the streaming ….” 31 Oct. 2019, https://slate.com/culture/2019/10/apple-tv-plus-disney-plus-hbo-max-peacock-streaming-prices.html. Accessed 19 Nov. 2019.