3 Lessons On The Streaming Wars From The Disney+ Content Release

Published on October 17, 2019

Earlier this week, Disney+ announced its Nov. 12th launch content in a long series of tweets, including both film and TV properties.

The Streaming Wars are heating up, with its own launch joining Apple TV+ (launching Nov. 1st) and the already existing industry leaders, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu (which Disney owns a majority stake in). It will take considerable time to properly gauge the impact of the launch of the $6.99/month service. Disney’s media strategy and the long-term implications of the launches of so many services add uncertainty to the mix. But there are three immediate takeaways of Disney’s streaming strategy.

1. Price is Key

With current industry leader Netflix starting at $8.99 /month and up, Disney+’s immediate strategy–to under-price the competition–is a smart move. With a soon-to-be plethora of top-tier competitors (including HBO Max, with its library of Warner Bros. and HBO content, and NBCUniversal’s ‘Peacock’ service in early 2020), streamers will have considerable options to choose from, each boasting deep but exclusive content libraries and its own plan hierarchies.

This means that each service needs to play to their strengths and find a strategy to ‘stand out’ against the horde, and at the same time purchasing all, or even multiple, of these services will involve an upward cost-creep over time for your average consumer. One way to stand out? Being cost-effective–Disney+’s own preview launch page notes its ‘small price‘, a nod to the need for services to consider affordability in their offerings.

2. Disney’s branding strategy following acquisitions is… messy

Disney already had a considerably deep well of content to mine for its forthcoming service, but the last decade for the company has been marked by a series of acquisitions–Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm (2012), and Fox (2019), providing brands and content that Disney is clearly orienting its strategy around, albiet with one curious inconsistency.

Disney+ social media explicitly utilizes a formula highlighting its unification of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic properties… but not Fox. More curiously, Disney added its own logo to the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street, effectively treating the Fox-produced film as its own in-house property. Other classics, like The Sound of Music, are not. What are we to make of this?

It seems like the company is still evolving its strategy about how to brand acquired content. When consumers strongly identify a media property with an existing media ‘brand’ — as is the case with Marvel Studios or Star Wars — Disney highlights that brand. On the other hand, where a property isn’t already strongly brand-identified but it fits into Disney’s own branding for family-friendly classics, Disney may rebrand it… and sometimes it may not.

This all tells us a couple things about where Disney is following the Fox acquisition. First, it isn’t ready to advertise Fox’s content as a ‘brand’ in the same way it does Star Wars or Marvel, leaving it mined but not highlighted. Finally, it seems as though Disney doesn’t have a consistent strategy with what exactly to do with its new, massive Fox content library–for now it selectively mines it for the service, prioritizing reinforcing Disney’s own brand.

3. One winner of the streaming wars: fans of classic content.

Disney’s launch content tweets highlight something we’ll likely see a lot more of in the future–an embrace of classic films. Despite Netflix’s vast array of content accumulated over the years, pre-1980 content has never really been its strongest suit. Instead, the company predominantly focused on sprinkling a few time-honored classics among a host of new originals and modern film and television offerings. With older, influential companies like Disney (including Fox), Universal, and Warner Bros. launching their own in-house services, we can expect each to mine their large array of film and TV offerings to fill their libraries and distinguish themselves from the competition. Disney has confirmed that expectation.

Tweeting its content chronologically, the service has chosen to immediately highlight its deep back-catalog of classic content–beyond its early cartoon hits like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Pinoccho (1940) it highlights other classics, like 1947’s aforementioned Miracle on 34th Street20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1954), and Old Yeller (1954). These are exactly the sorts of titles Netflix would never house. While the large array of streaming services suggest a soon-to-be-disrupted industry, at least fans of classic content can walk away with access to deep wells of classics that would never otherwise be available on these sorts of big-tent services.

We’ll certainly see more changes following its November 12th launch, but for now it’s anyone’s guess what will happen to the streaming landscape in the following months.

Jeff Ewing is a staff writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he covers entertainment news.

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