On Tuesday the Mouse House officially entered the Streaming Wars, and they put their rivals on notice. Bob Iger’s highly anticipated streaming service, Disney+, launched in the wee hours of the morning, marking the beginning of a new era for the almost century-old company. The high volume of downloads caused wide-spread technical issues, but – as should be expected – Disney was able to quell any fears with their state-of-the-art PR machine. They thanked subscribers for their excitement – which had exceeded anything they could have hoped for – and asked for a bit of patience as they worked on the issues. While ‘Disney+ down’ made the rounds on Twitter, it still meant people were talking about the service, which is exactly what Disney wanted.
Despite the issues caused by the same-day launch, Disney made the day feel like an event. By mid-morning social media was already abuzz with promotions, posts, pictures, and polls from subscribers and entertainment sites. People were excited to share what they were streaming and others spent time searching for the most obscure and nostalgic tv shows from their childhood. By the afternoon, most of the issues seemed to be taken care of and Disney+ was well on its way to taking over social media, as ‘Disney’ spent the day trending #1 in the United States on Twitter.
The service interruptions also weren’t enough to quell excitement for Disney’s most-marketed piece of original content: The Mandalorian – the first series of its kind set in a Galaxy Far, Far Away. The new era of Star Wars began at lightspeed as both critics and fans both received the show’s first episode with positivity and excitement. The Mandalorian will be the first of many series set in the Star Wars universe as Lucasfilm takes a small break from films and shifts its focus to developing more for Disney+. The show was able to trend as high as #4 in the US on Twitter on Tuesday and its second episode is scheduled to be released on Friday.
The positive news continued on Wednesday when Disney reported that they had already surpassed 10 million subscribers for the service. That number is two million more than some analysts had them reaching by the end of the year. Beating those expectations led to Credit Suisse raising its outlook for Disney shares. The company’s stock (DIS) shot up to almost $150 per share before settling at $148.72 (+7.32%) at the closing bell. It would have been hard for Disney to have asked for a better launch day. Disney+ is well on its way to becoming a legitimate rival to Netflix.
A fellow newcomer to the streaming world didn’t find the same success in its debut. Apple launched their new streaming service, Apple TV+, just two weeks ago and the company is already starting to realign at the executive level. On Monday, Kim Rozenfeld left his position as head of current scripted programming, documentary, and unscripted content. The departure comes amidst tepid reviews and reception of the service’s original content, including their primary program The Morning Show – the $300M series starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell – that failed to impact audiences as expected.
Additionally, there is just a lack of content for the service at the moment, with only four original series (The Morning Show, See, Dickinson, For All Mankind). Other than those four shows, subscribers still have to pay for most other popular movies and content. What the service does have going for it is price – the cheapest among the streamers at $4.99/month – and that it’s part of the Apple ecosystem. Unfortunately those two features won’t matter unless Apple can beef up their content library and future original content is of higher quality.
Ultimately, Netflix is still the top dog of the streaming industry and this is their war to lose. They’ve been here the longest, they understand the industry the best, and they have a massive head start with 158 million subscribers worldwide. Any contenders will have to go through Netflix to take the throne. Like Apple though, their original content can be hit or miss. The hits can be huge, but there are so many more misses because of the sheer volume of content they develop and release. Shrewd spending in the future is definitely a must for them to continue to dominate, especially with Disney+ and its vast library that includes content from Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, Disney animated, and 20th Century Fox.
The Streaming Wars have officially begun.