Not only did they trigger the trend of binge-watching, leading to the gradual breakdown of traditional linear TV viewing, but their subscriptions have gone through the roof and forced the likes of Sky and BBC to change their models. Their output of content (mostly original and self-made) has proved impressively consistent, frequent and well-received. The variety and quality on offer has something for everyone — whether it’s Narcos, Stranger Things or The Crown. And that’s not mentioning cult hits such as 13 Reasons Why, Orange Is the New Black or House of Cards. At the beginning of 2017 Netflix was voted the 6th most popular brand in the UK, ahead of the likes of M&S and YouTube. Hell, they even coined their own pop-culture euphemism (“Netflix & chill”).
So when Disney recently announced they were setting up their own streaming service, this must’ve put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons over at Netflix HQ. After all, why shouldn’t Disney enjoy the same slice of success that Netflix has enjoyed? God knows they’ve got their own strong content and hefty back-catalogue – not to mention these little franchises they bought some years ago called Star Wars and Marvel (you might have heard of them). Today, Disney supremo Bob Iger confirmed that these franchises would indeed sit under the same roof as all other Disney content on their new streaming platform (DisFlix? Work-in-progress.)
Iger said, “We’re going to launch big, we’re going to launch hot. There’ll be four or five original Disney-branded films made exclusively for the online service, as well as four to five original Disney-branded TV series.” The planned app “will have the entire output of the studio – animation, live action and Disney including Pixar, Star Wars and all of the Marvel movies”.
From a fan’s point-of-view, this all sounds very exciting. As a massive Star Wars geek I’d heard rumours of a live-action TV series some time ago, but this was mysteriously canned back in 2010 (just a year after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, aka Star Wars). As for Marvel, it’s no secret that whilst almost all of their films are critically and commercially successful, the same cannot be said of their TV content (hello Agents of SHIELD, Inhumans, Peggy Carter). Exception to this rule is obviously The Defenders series (Daredevil, Luke Cage et al) … which just so happens to be on Netflix, but expires in 2019. Just when Disney’s streaming service is due to launch.
But from a consumer point-of-view, this is all starting to sound a little expensive not to mention confusing and frustrating. Along with current subscriptions to the likes of Sky, Amazon Prime and Netflix, it looks like I’ll now need to add DisneyStream (work-in-progress) to the list. And as Bob richer-than-god Iger has confirmed that their platform will be ad-free, I dread to think just how much this will cost. And putting ‘exclusive original’ content to one side, how tricky is the overlap going to be? For example, I want to watch Rogue One (again) but where do I go? Well, I could probably download it on Sky, but only if I have the movie package. Or I could wait until it gets on Netflix, but only if it’s licensed to later appear there. But probably not until it expires on Sky. Then again, I could just pay to rent / purchase it through Amazon Prime. But wait a minute, now I’ve got Digi-Disney (nope, I’m giving up) I can just go watch it there.
All of this definitely shows that one thing is certain – TV is changing right before our eyes. And as the heavy hitters continue to get stronger and open up leads on the competition, the landscape will continue to evolve. Maybe at some point in a galaxy far far away in the not too distant future, someone will simplify the various overlapping licenses and come up with a clear, uncongested and competitively-priced way to host all of these streaming offerings under one roof. A bit like iTunes did when music went digital and every man and his dog had an iPod. Whoever that person is stands to make a hell of a lot of money. But probably not as much as Bob Iger.