Disney Plus booms, Netflix slips, Marvel bolts: Time to cancel a streaming service?

Posted: 17 February 2022 4:49 pm
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A year after launching the Star channel, Disney Plus has become a force to be reckoned with.

Since the dawn of the video-on-demand streaming wars, Netflix has always been ahead of the competition. With a content library growing at an incredible rate, innovative features and word-of-mouth buzz, the company has rightfully earned the moniker of streaming giant. Aiming to keep up with Netflix is an ambitious undertaking. The platform's recommendations algorithm alone is difficult to beat.

That didn't stop others from trying, to varying levels of success. But as competition grew fiercer, one particular service managed to stand out from the crowd: Disney Plus. Launching with a content library brimming with legacy titles and investing in eye-grabbing new titles, it gained momentum as the shiny new service on the block. Since the debut of the Star channel, Disney Plus became appealing to an even wider target audience.

Which begs the question: Is it finally time to give up your Netflix subscription in favour of Disney Plus? I can't answer that for you – shocker. However, if you're reassessing your entertainment options, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Subscriber growth shows that Netflix is in trouble

You might have read recently about Netflix's disappointing subscriber growth. While the streaming service isn't particularly transparent when it comes to how many users actually watch content, we know more about how many people sign up. Netflix broke subscriber records in 2020, mainly due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, things have slowed down. Netflix added a little over 18 million worldwide subscribers during 2021 compared to more than 36 million during 2020. It also projected to add around 2.5 million new users during the first 3 months of this year, which is below what analysts expected.

Disney Plus, meanwhile, is growing at an accelerated rate. Variety reported that as of January 2022 Netflix globally now only has 25.4 million subscribers more than Disney Plus. While that figure includes Hulu and ESPN+ subscribers being counted for Disney, considering Disney Plus didn't launch until 2019, it's steaming ahead.

The platform will launch in more markets in 2022, which will see an influx of new subscribers. More subscribers worldwide means more incentive to invest in new, diverse content to satisfy demand, so there's a good chance we'll be seeing even more ambitious titles from Disney Plus, for the Star library in particular, in the near future.

Netflix continues to dominate in Australia for now, with Prime Video and Disney Plus battling it out for second place. But while Prime Video has the benefit of being bundled with Amazon Prime, which offers shopping perks, Disney Plus is enjoying this growth spurt strictly due to its streaming efforts. Cost might have something to do with it too.

Netflix is getting more expensive

Netflix has been repeatedly increasing prices since entering the Australian market, most recently in November 2021.

At the moment, a Netflix basic plan costs $10.99 a month, but it only supports a single stream at a time and SD video quality. Families are better off with a Standard plan, which costs $16.99 a month for 2 simultaneous streams and HD quality. If you're looking for 4K video quality, you need to get the Premium plan. It's now $22.99 a month and allows 4 streams at a time.

Disney Plus, meanwhile, increased its price once, when it launched the Star channel in February 2021. The service offers a single type of subscription: For $11.99 a month you can access the entire library in 4K where available and stream on 4 separate devices at the same time. That's all the benefits of the Netflix Premium plan for half the price.

Sign up to Disney+ to stream hundreds of movies and shows

Watch new and classic TV and movies from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic and 21st Century Fox from one streaming service.

Streaming services were created to deliver entertainment in a more convenient manner than pay TV services and at a more affordable price. That's still the case. However, depending on your interests, subscribing to a bunch of streaming services adds up.

With the cost of everything from food to housing on an upward spiral, more households might be looking to cut back on entertainment. If cost is a major factor for you, making the switch to Disney Plus is worth considering at least for a few months.

It is worth noting that neither Disney Plus nor Netflix offers free trials, so you will have to sign up if you're keen on checking it out. Thankfully, you can have 7 profiles and 4 simultaneous streams so you can share the account with friends and cut the cost right down to just a few bucks.

Disney Plus vs Netflix price comparison

Netflix is still losing licensed titles

Netflix has lost a lot of licensed content in the last few years as more entertainment companies took back titles to launch their own streaming services. Now, Netflix's popular Marvel shows are suffering the same fate. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders are all leaving Netflix at the end of February 2022.

When Daredevil first came out in 2015, the media landscape looked different. Disney saw Netflix as a natural partner to distribute some of its content. Fast-forward to present day and the launch of Disney Plus completely changed the game.

All of the Marvel shows on Netflix (with the exception of Iron Fist, sorry!) were a critical and commercial success. They were also all cancelled in 2019. Disney launching its own standalone service meant that the company was likely looking to bring these superheroes under the same Marvel umbrella.

The details of the licensing deal between Disney and Netflix aren't public, yet it's safe to assume that these shows are leaving Netflix because that deal expires.

Disney hasn't been shy about welcoming the Defenders back into the fold, at least one of them. Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin has appeared in Hawkeye, while Charlie Cox's Daredevil made a cameo in blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home. Don't be surprised if any of these shows pop up on Disney Plus sometime soon.

Netflix's content is a mixed bag

Netflix invested billions in creating original productions to compensate for its loss of licensed shows and movies. The strategy is wise. The service is dropping so many titles on a weekly basis across all genres that it's impossible to watch them all.

That being said, Netflix original productions vary in quality. The service had one of the biggest TV hits of 2021, Squid Game, while Bridgerton, Stranger Things and The Witcher are still international favourites.

But a lot of the series from the platform's library suffer from what's informally known as Netflix bloat – they stretch the storyline too much in order to keep viewers in front of the screen for longer. Cowboy Bebop, for instance, one of the buzziest titles on Netflix last year, looked great but experienced pacing issues. It was quickly cancelled after only 1 season.

The service is faring better on the movie front, releasing both award-worthy titles like The Power of the Dog and crowd-pleasing movies like Army of the Dead or Red Notice. It's also doing great when it comes to reality TV and kids programming, so it remains a worthwhile entertainment hub for the entire family overall.

Disney Plus is closing the gap on Netflix

Disney Plus has fewer monthly premieres, but they stay in the zeitgeist for longer due to their weekly release schedule. With the addition of Star, the content library now features some of the most beloved TV series of all time, including Grey's Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, The Simpsons, Lost, Scrubs and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The platform's original productions have been mostly met with critical acclaim and audience enthusiasm. The Marvel and Star Wars live action TV shows are a huge selling point for Disney Plus. Its slate of original series for young viewers is steadily growing.

Adult-oriented originals like Pam & Tommy and the upcoming How I Met Your Father are easily must-watch TV. Reality fans have less to get excited about, at least until The Kardashians makes its splashy debut in April.

In addition to those, Disney Plus will welcome Steven Spielberg's West Side Story in early March. In the next 6 weeks it will also have new adult thriller No Exit, Marvel's Moon Knight, Amy Schumer's new series Life & Beth and corrupt medical drama The Dropout.

Stream Hulu originals: Sign up to Disney Plus now

On the same note, the Disney Plus movie library is a behemoth of entertainment, with everything from Marvel and Star Wars blockbusters to indie darlings, iconic classics and less hyped but enjoyable original titles for viewers of all ages. Like with Netflix, if you're looking for a service the whole family can enjoy, Disney Plus is a serious contender.

Disney Plus shows and movies

The full list of titles coming to Disney Plus can be found here.

Bottom line: It's a good time to jump ship

If you want to switch from Netflix to Disney Plus, it's the perfect moment to test the waters.

With How I Met Your Father (9 March), The Dropout (3 March), the Pam & Tommy finale, Moon Knight (30 March) and Academy-nominated movie West Side Story (2 March) all scheduled to premiere on Disney Plus in March, you'll have plenty to watch. Depending on which Netflix plan you have, you can also do it for cheaper.

Netflix isn't going anywhere. Until the next Squid Game comes along, your fear of missing out should be in check.

Not into Netflix or Disney Plus? Check out the latest releases on every service here. Otherwise, search for where to watch any TV show in Australia here.

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