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Netflix and Chill or Disney+ and [email protected]$%

Who will win the streaming wars? Disney+ or Netflix?

By Isaac ShapiroPublished 3 years ago 11 min read

On November 12th, Disney will launch their exclusive streaming service Disney Plus, firing the first salvo in what will become one of the bloodiest most brutal competitions in the world of media and entertainment. They will begin the great streaming wars. Netflix has evolved from a cute little niche DVD rental service into a tech behemoth completely reshaping the way the world consumes entertainment. With over 151 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix has become a digital buffet trying to cater towards every niche taste imaginable and racking up tremendous amounts of debt to continue to feed their audiences endless appetite for content, with some estimating the amount of debt to be as high as 20 billion dollars to make sure you're stocked with new seasons of Stranger Things.

Largely they’ve been unopposed with a few challengers like CBS All Access, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and ummm I guess DC Universe counts as well, but none have gained much ground and they seemed like bit players compared to the cultural ubiquity that Netflix has attained, but now Disney, with the acquisition of Fox, maintains a literal stranglehold on just about every important and major pop culture brand. So the question is, in the coming streaming war, who will ultimately win out? Will Netflix be able to fend off the competition, or will Disney with its huge back log of content along with their other brands like Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel be able to topple the behemoth? Which brings up a bigger issue. Are you going to Netflix and chill or Disney+ and [email protected]$%!

I’m greatly interested in this conflict for a number of reasons. First I love being an observer of media and trends and I also have skin in the game, seeing as I have a few shares of stock in both companies so it’s in my best interest for both of them to succeed. But at the same time I think Netflix has become a bloated behemoth. A company that is trying to be too many different things to too many people and not doing particularly great job of accomplishing any of them.

Another thing Netflix keeps pushing that I’m not a big fan of is their push for perpetuating binge culture and releasing all of their tv show episodes at once. Although I don’t have anything against binge viewing in terms of the practice, and one of my favorite things is to get a group of people to sit around and binge a series together with myself acting like a kind of content Sherpa.

But as a content strategy releasing 8 or 10 or 13 episodes of a series all at once is one of the worst content strategies imaginable. Essentially you take 10 weeks of potential water cooler conversation and discussion and pop them out all over a weekend and anything that follows is just a series of diminishing returns. Netflix has always been notoriously tight lipped about their metrics in terms of how many people are actually watching their series. They only reveal data when they have some big stats they want to brag about. Like how many people watched Bird Box, Bright, or tuned into the latest season of Stranger Things.

But the fact that they don’t reveal data about their less successful programming feels like they’ve built a mansion on quicksand. And they’re in an awkward position covering up their failures and wasted money on projects that don’t bring in new subscribers, but simply cancelling them and hoping nobody pays attention as they get swept under the rug of search and discovery. For every big hit like Bojack Horsemen or Orange is the New Black there are dozens of pricey failures like the Wachowski siblings Sense8, The OA, Hemlock Grove, The Get Down, and Marco Polo, all being very expensive misfires that have largely been forgotten in the larger cultural discourse.

It also doesn’t help that a lot of Netflix projects don’t really have a long shelf life. Typically I’d say each big series or movie has like at most maybe a two week period after it launches before the discussion peters out completely. I mean any of you out there still talking about House of Cards, the latest season of Stranger Things, or even goddamn Bird Box?

If I had to make a guess, probably not. Not to say that we haven’t seen some big fandoms spring out from series on Netflix. Look no further than something like the passionate Voltron fandom, but at best these feel like quick bursts of light that are quickly extinguished because when you can enjoy everything at once then what else is there really to feel excited about?

It doesn’t matter if you're going to the best buffet in the world at Las Vegas where you can have king crab legs along with lobster and filet mignon. When you're just gorging on something in an unlimited quantity, it just makes it feel cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good buffet and like gorging myself like anyone else, but the experience always feels kind of cheap without any kind of structure or design behind it.

Doesn’t help that a lot of Netflix series feel like they have A LOT of filler content that’s just designed to pad the episode's run time. That was the issue with a lot of the mostly well-received Marvel shows. There were a lot of side characters who’d spent a lot of time talking, but not really have anything interesting to say. Almost as if the series was designed to let you play games on your smart phone or text or check facebook before catching your attention with an attention grabbing big bloody fight scene.

That’s why I don’t think we’ve seen a Netflix series take a hold of the cultural Zeitgeist in the same way as something like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones did at their peak, where each episode would be discussed and dissected and created an entire cottage industry of different people giving their takes on it. Serialization where something is released piece by piece creates anticipation for the next meal and in the best case scenario can even go as far as building an audience as the series moves forward.

While the Netflix model of all at once binge viewing is too similar to the theatrical model where most films need to recoup 40% to 50% of their budget in the opening weekend to be deemed successful because most movies don’t play out well as time goes on and they lose theaters and relevance they can struggle in later weeks after their release date.

There are a few exceptions to this but it’s very rare for even the biggest blockbusters to hold onto that #1 debut title in week two or week three at the box office. Where they’re eventually pushed out by other movies and lose screens as new releases take their place. Which seems to be largely what happens at least from a cultural perspective with most Netflix streaming content. I don’t have the numbers since Netflix will never release them, but that’s what it feels like at least as an outside cultural observer.

This brings us to the Disney+ method of releasing content going forward. Disney will not have as much content as Netflix and they're not going to even try to compete with Netflix’s output, but what they are going to try and do to compete is by having a better product that’s released pretty regularly. For each of their major TV series releases, they're planning on rolling things out episodically vs. posting everything at once. This will be the first big attempt by an old media conglomerate to bring things back to how tv used to work compared to the digital disruption of the cord cutting streaming services. The idea is that while there will be less Disney+ original series, those series will be bigger and better than anything you typically see on Netflix.

Disney is spending easily $10-25 million dollars on an episode of any of the upcoming MCU shows like Wandavision or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. So each of these episodes will feel less like the Inhumans tv series or the sci-fi channel tv level of something Agents of Shield or any of the DC Greg Berlanti-verse shows and more along the lines of what you expect to see in a full-budgeted Marvel movie only split up into 6 to 8 installments delivered on a weekly basis. And where you have big tent pole set pieces coming on a regular basis to the small screen, each one generating speculation and chatter, I can imagine that’ll go a long way towards holding people’s attention compared to the one and done binge viewing of the Netflix approach.

While this won’t be rolling out right away with the first of the Marvel series coming in fall 2020 we will be getting a taste when the first Disney+ flagship series launches with The Mandalorian and we’re already seeing Disney reap the benefits as discussion of each episode keeps the series and star wars in general relevant, but Disney is certainly not messing around and if it’s decent it’ll be an interesting prototype to what the future will look like with each new Disney+ flagship series featuring some kind of big moment that gets pushed out in the press while Netflix struggles to get people to care about things that don’t have the same cultural cache.

It feels like there’s too much stuff trying to appeal towards too many people where the Disney strategy is to go with big with well known name brands and pump as much money as they can into them. And we’re already seeing them stretch their muscles with the numerous Marvel TV series that this time will actually be connected to the MCU thanks to Kevin Feige’s recent promotion as the creative director of not just Marvel Studios, but all of Marvel including their publishing and TV divisions putting an end to the civil war between him and Ike Perlmutter. While also ending the separate but not equal status of the several series that were ostensibly connected to the MCU like cloak and dagger, agents of shield, the runaways, and of course all the Netflix marvel series, which were supposed to be connected to the MCU, but never saw any greater crossovers with the larger MCU films and characters.

So now whenever the next big Avengers film rolls around we might actually get to see Moon Knight, Mrs. Marvel, and She Hulk actually show up and fight alongside the main cast. And while I think Star Wars is in need a great deal of rehabilitation, the idea that we could get more seasons of The Mandalorian or other future tv series with film level budgets is very enticing.

Disney has a very good collection of intellectual properties, one of the most efficient production pipelines in the industry. More money than god. And probably the best rooster of talent in terms of making mass market mass appeal entertainment. They just have too much leverage where they can produce better things that stay in the cultural consciousness for a longer period of time. While the Netflix mode of throwing everything to the wall and seeing what sticks is lazy and sloppy and ultimately makes even their high profile entertainment like the 200 million dollar 3 hour opus of Martin Scorsese's The Irishman feel less like a cinematic event, but rather like take out Chinese food you get on a lazy Thursday night.

I mean how many people are still talking about the Breaking Bad sequel movie El Camino? It came and went in a literal weekend and has completely evaporated from the cultural consciousness. Not to say all Disney+ content won’t fade from memory quickly, but I think at least for their big tv series releasing them episodically will get more bang for their buck and ultimately drive more people to subscribe. It won’t be until fall of 2020, but I think by then we’ll see this battle station become fully operational.

But with so many different companies fighting for ever decreasing amount of time people have to watch all these show the streaming wars will become more brutal and bloody than ever before as each company attempts to construct their own game of thrones style hits. Because you need to appeal to the broadest audience and get the most attention possible and with Netflix’s catalogue of original content coming across as all over the map trying to appeal towards too many people in too many different niches. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they desperately try to hide the numbers behind how many people are watching their series. Just because I don’t think the data paints as rosy of a picture as they’d like and it’s not a coincidence that they only reveal the numbers when they have something they really want to brag about like Brights opening view numbers or last year when Bird Box became a cultural phenomenon for half a second before fading into the ether.

Netflix will need a big hit and a new marketing strategy if they want to remain competitive with the mouse house. Because it’s clear Disney is not messing around. And oh who’s that over there ohhhh Apple TV how cute. That’s adorable that you think you can use that iPhone money to try and compete. Well you do you over there and we’ll watch the big boys duke it out. I’m sure that Blind Barbarian show with Jason Mamoa is very interesting and all the kids in Brooklyn and Williamsburg are supposed to love that Hipster Emily Dicksinson show. So it's not Netflix and Chill anymore, it’s Disney+ and fuck. Because as a little green jedi might say, "Begun the streaming wars have."


About the Creator

Isaac Shapiro

When not scrounging the internet for the best content for Jerrick Media, Isaac can be found giving scritches to feathery friend Captain Crunch.

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