Now I just want to start out by saying that I’ve gotten a lot of flack for my avid dedication to all things Disney.
“How can you be so in love with films that perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes?”
“Okay, but the maaaaaaaagic.”
“They’re a heartless media conglomerate that doesn’t make a single move that won’t make a profit in some way.”
“Okay, but look at my sequined Minnie ears . . .”
Basically, I have a childlike adoration for old school Disney and being on the Indiana Jones ride in Anaheim. Sue me. That being said, I am fully aware of the problematic tendencies of the studio and will tackle some of those in the future, because even a bleeding heart Disneyphile such as myself can’t turn a blind eye to some some of the crap that Walt used to and, nowadays, Iger tries to pull.
A few weeks ago, we all found out that Disney is getting ready to roll out their own streaming service in 2019. Now this means, of course, that all new Disney owned theatrical features will not appear in your ‘New Releases’ on Netflix in favor of their new home at the ‘Happiest Place’ on the Interwebs. This also means that once Disney’s deal with Netflix is up in 2019 all of the lovely Disney, Marvel, and Lucasfilm content will be pulled from the platform. Theatrical releases through the end of 2018 will appear on Netflix. Now hold up a second Bob, I have a few personal concerns with this development.
According to NPR, “Disney is trying to appeal to younger audiences who are choosing Netflix and other digital platforms over traditional television.” Okay, valid. I own a first generation Apple TV and solely consume media that I can watch off my (not my parents’—that distinction will be important in a second) Netflix account and the plethora of network apps available to me with the aid of the Xfinity login my laptop automatically stored back in sophomore year of college when my roommate’s parents thought we needed basic cable. As a single test case of the “younger audiences” all media companies are hoping to capture by going digital, I think I both prove and disprove Disney’s assessment of this market segment. Yes, I watch bountiful quantities of OTT and On Demand film and television. However, I do not pay for very many subscriptions, and neither do many of peers nor the even younger (under 18’s) audiences which make up much of Disney’s core demographic.
When I moved out for college, the first independent purchase I made was my Netflix account. My parents absolutely refused to pay for the subscription service on top of cable(, and to this day they and both of my sister use my account). I love television and film. I would later realize my deep passion for storytelling, but at the time, it was a question of consumption habits. I moved into a dorm room, and I needed an economical way to pass my spare time. Netflix was bar none the superior choice to meet my needs even before the outbreak of ‘Netflix Originals.’ The meager cost of $7.99 a month gave me all the media intake I needed.
Over the years, I could have adopted alternative services, but I never did. When Hulu began to up it’s game, I didn’t bat an eye. HBO came out with HBO NOW, and I didn’t even consider it. (I actually watched the seventh season of Thrones along with the entirety of Girls and all available episodes of Silicon Valley this summer with two consecutive free trials on my dad’s then my own iTunes account before cancelling altogether.) This is because (a) I am an irrationally loyal consumer like many, (b) I am a creature of habit, and (c) I am an either/or consumer. With several thousands in student debt and the cost of living on my own resting squarely on my shoulders, it’s always been one service or the other. When I got my first car, I indulged in Apple Music for the two hour drive home I’d now be doing solo. The student discount was available to me and with an Apple laptop and iPhone, it was a convenient option. I haven’t budged since(, although a Hulu/Netflix bundle I saw recently for the same price has weakened my resolve).
My point is that I can’t justify the cost of several different subscriptions if every studio decided to launch their own for exclusive access to that content. (If that happened, I’d probably just get cable. Think about it: Disney/ABC, HBO, CBS, and NBCUniversal alone would probably ring up a $50 monthly bill.) Which brings us to my professional concerns regarding this news. An article from CNBC calls the launch of a streaming platform an “arrogant” move by Disney. Let’s go back to those underaged consumers I referenced earlier. They are part of Disney’s audience, but they are not a consumer. Before you leave home, mom and dad are footing the bills and thus dictating the consumption habits of their children. My parents didn’t pay for Netflix, so I was watching cable like the rest of the common plebs. And while I may have complained that I needed Netflix, I didn’t. That CNBC Article sites a fund manager and parent noting, “I have to confess my children are great users of Netflix . . . They don’t watch Disney. They don’t see anything of Disney on Netflix. From my point of view sitting there as a consumer I think this is a pretty hollow threat.” You have one parent providing entertainment to his kids and one young adult, members of the audience digital platforms are trying to collect, rationalizing why they won’t be needing Disney’s new service.
It would seem that The Walt Disney Company has dared to drink their own Kool-Aid. Let’s go beyond the youth skewing Disney content, and focus on the more mature properties at stake: Lucasfilm and Marvel theatrical features. In my humble opinion, these properties are essentially where the success of this platform hinges. If a digital rental of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 runs at $5 on all major distribution channels (iTunes, Amazon Video, YouTube, etc.), and you can re-watch any Marvel property infinitely for say $10 a month, the math is simple. But do we really want to hit ‘play again’? If Marvel produces 3 films a year and Lucasfilm produces 2, a $25-40 dollar annual cost doesn’t look so bad compared to the $120 cost of a streaming service. Disney is backing some major blockbusters. Heck, I’d shell out the $15 a piece to watch each of them on an IMAX screen that will do those VFX proper justice. These films are beautiful to watch but the storytelling, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired. Correct me if this is an #unpopularopinion, but I really don’t need to watch any of these films more than once. (Except for Rogue One. That is a cinematic masterpiece, and damn you, Iger, for taking that away from me.) Either I need Netflix, or I need Disney. And I won’t be sacrificing Stranger Things for Iron Man 7.
Having pro/con’ed this issue probably as much as a member of their executive team, it’s my not so professional opinion that Disney has some trials still ahead with this one. I, for one, will be passing on this ride.