It’s been two years since Disney announced its plans to wade into the increasingly crowded streaming-content marketplace, where it will join the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as single-network offerings such as CBS All Access, HBO Now, Stars and Showtime. And with the recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox and Hulu, Disney has solidified its case to become the premier streaming service in your living room and on your mobile devices. Despite projections that the Mouse House’s new streaming platform will fail to generate a profit until 2024, competitors Netflix and Amazon Prime are bracing for impact as we inch closer to the new service’s November 12 launch date.
While Netflix is projected to spend $15 billion on new content in 2019, Disney will launch its new service with programming drawn from a war chest of assets and franchises that now includes its own classic brand, Lucasfilm, Marvel Entertainment, Pixar, National Geographic, 20th Century Fox, ESPN, ABC and Hulu. At just $6.99 a month, Disney+ will be the most cost-effective streaming service available.
So let’s dive into how Disney+’s imminent arrival might affect families that subscribe come November.
Price and Image
Starting at $6.99 a month ($69.99/year), Disney+ is half the cost of Netflix’s most popular plan, which starts at $12.99. Compared to Amazon Prime at $12.99 a month, HBO Now at $14.99 a month and YouTube TV at a staggering $49.99 a month, paying for Disney+ is akin to going to the dollar theater to see the midnight premiere of Avengers: Endgame—and getting free popcorn.
But there is a caveat: Netflix has set a standard of incrementally raising its monthly charge for even its cheapest streaming package. This is a trend that Disney+ may adopt in the following years, and potential subscribers might want to consider that before re-upping automatically each year.
That’s not the only thing families need to be aware of. Though there are some exceptions, Disney has built its brand on creating family-oriented content. But with each acquisition of other companies and services, that family-friendly image erodes. Imagine a platform where The Lion King is featured adjacently to a gory Stephen King adaptation such as Castle Rock. A few inadvertent clicks from an innocent toddler, and all of sudden a nighttime viewing of Dumbo turns into explicit exposure courtesy Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Harlots.
That said, Disney+ will almost certainly provide parental controls and kids’ accounts to help mitigate that potential problem. But those controls must still be set up intentionally by parents, many of whom may not do so. And for some kids, that could mean easy access to R- and M-rated content.
Disney’s Deepening Cultural Impact
Disney, with its many franchises and sub-brands, already exerts tremendous cultural impact. But with the arrival of Disney+, the entertainment juggernaut’s reach will constitute an unprecedented reach from a single company into any household.
Depending on your family’s stance regarding Disney’s content, this could be a good or bad news. Active, intentional parents should be able to customize this potential smorgasbord of Mouse House content into a menu of pretty positive choices for children. And it’s hard to see other streaming services matching what Disney will offer in this area.
Still, even some of Disney’s most beloved properties and recent movies have increasingly exhibited a tendency to embrace progressive cultural themes, especially when it comes to LGBTQ representation (Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story 4 are two recent examples).
So while Disney+ may offer families more flexibility and options for wholesome programming at a lower price, intentional engagement and discernment will still be required for any family to make the most of that possibility.