The Walt Disney Company is serious about streaming. And during its quarterly earnings call this week, CEO Bob Iger emphasized as much by announcing that the company will be bundling all three of its streaming services, including the upcoming Disney+, for the same monthly price as the most popular Netflix subscription.
Subscribing to Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu together will cost $12.99 a month, which includes the following:
- Access to Disney+, a.k.a. the soon-to-be home of Disney’s entire film and TV catalogue, which contains content from Disney itself (read: classic animated movies like The Lion King and Aladdin, and original TV shows like Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire), in addition to the entire Marvel Studios library, every Star Wars film, the 20th Century Fox archives, and every single episode of The Simpsons.
- Disney+ will also offer original movies and TV series based on many of these established properties, some produced exclusively for the platform.
- Access to ESPN+, where viewers can watch tennis, golf, UFC matches, and myriad college sports, as well less “mainstream” sports like cricket and rugby.
- Access to the ad-supported tier of Hulu.
- While inferior to the blessedly commercial-free (and more expensive) tier of Hulu, Hulu-with-ads carries all the same content — a range of past and current network TV shows, original content produced by Hulu (including the critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale), and a wide selection of big-budget and genre films alike. (Hulu with ads is $5.99 a month.)
Subscribing to all three services separately would run you about $19 a month, meaning this newly announced bundle will translate to a $6 discount.
But Disney’s real goal here seems pretty clear: to intimidate Netflix, its biggest competitor in the streaming space and a stalwart that charges its subscribers $12.99 a month for the ability to stream its content on a number of devices.
Netflix’s most basic tier only offers content in standard definition, and at $8.99 it’s still more expensive than all three of Disney’s standalone offerings.
Disney is well positioned to take on Netflix, even beyond the bundle.
Disney+ capitalizes on the monstrous popularity of the company’s conglomerate-fueled catalogue right now; Avengers: Endgame recently became the highest-grossing movie of all time, for example, and the only place to stream it will be Disney’s own streaming service.
The film directly behind it on the list of box-office record-holders? Avatar, which was produced by Fox when it came out in 2009 but is now owned by Disney, thanks to the company’s $71.3-billion merger earlier this year.
And Disney’s killer year at the box office and extensive archives go far beyond Endgame; Pixar’s Toy Story 4 made bank in June, and it and the rest of Pixar’s films will also be exclusive to Disney+.
Combined with Hulu’s hefty library and the timelessness of sports, Disney’s bundle foray into the crowded streaming arena stands to deliver benefits that other players just can’t promise.
Sure, the forthcoming HBO Max will be the only place to watch Friends once the service launches in spring 2020, and NBCUniversal’s eventual streaming service will be free, as well as the exclusive home of The Office starting in 2021.
But Warner and NBC aren’t true challengers to Disney — they’re much more of an issue for Netflix, which has long counted Friends and The Office as two of its most marquee offerings.
Disney has so many name-brand shows and movies under its belt that it hardly needs one special, expensive get to woo subscribers.
And with additional announcements from the company’s earnings call revealing that it is planning to produce “re-imaginings” of fan-favorite movies like Home Alone, Night at the Museum, Cheaper by the Dozen, and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid for Disney+, it’s hard to deny that Disney is prepped for an easy takeover of the family-friendly streaming market in particular — and that it’s savvy enough, and rich enough, to grab as many other recognizable names as it can.
The creeping costs of TV content spread out across several different subscription services are a legitimate fear for many viewers as we inch toward a streaming landscape that looks a lot like cable TV, despite once being dominated by just a handful of providers.
And the Disney+ bundle comes with a somewhat comforting price relative to its content, which should at least make the expense of subscribing to an increasing number of services a little easier to swallow.
But if people are looking to cut costs, it might soon be easier to decide which service to drop first, and that service just might be Netflix.