Disney Plus might be the new streaming kid on the block, but it's wasted no time in attracting 28.6 million paid subscribers. That's the number as of Monday, according to CEO Bob Iger during the company's first-quarter earnings call. The company reported 26.5 million as of the end of its most recent quarter.

That may not seem like a lot when compared to Netflix's 167 million subscribers, but to put it in context, Disney Plus has been around for less than three months, while Netflix has been streaming movies and TV shows for 12 years. 

Disney's CEO attributed the current success of the streaming service to content like The Mandalorian, which features the popular Baby Yoda character. Iger pointed to both as an example of "the company's ability to connect with audiences." 

Connecting with audiences has always been a strength of Disney, which is as good as anyone at promoting its brands. Disney Plus gives it a powerful platform to showcase those brands, including its classic animated films, Pixar, Marvel, and of course, the Star Wars universe. Combining all of those into one service, instead of licensing them out to other platforms has apparently paid off.

Of course, Netflix isn't going anywhere. It is, however, clearly under new pressure from media and tech giants like Disney and Apple. And while Netflix's recent quarterly report showed that it continues to add subscribers, most of those are outside of the U.S., where growth has slowed significantly. 

On its earnings call last month, Netflix cited its most recent price increase as one of the reasons for slowing growth. The company increased the price of its standard service to $12.99 per month in January 2019, a result of the increased costs of creating its own content. Netflix spent a record $15 billion on licensing and creating original content in 2019, far more than any other service. 

Disney hasn't shied away from spending on the new service either, reporting a $689 million loss on $4 billion in revenue for all of its streaming services (which also include Hulu and ESPN Plus). Disney's willingness to spend, combined with its massive built-in content library, show exactly why Netflix should be worried about the success of Disney Plus so far. 

A recent study by research firm Piplsay says 36 percent of Americans have dropped another subscription in favor of Disney Plus. That same research shows more than half of Americans say that Disney Plus is as good or better than Netflix. That could be partially due to the fact that, according to Reelgood, Netflix today has 47 percent less content than it did eight years ago. 

That could spell danger as consumers decide which services provide the best value for their families. Disney's paying subscribers pay $6.99 per month, not including the number of subscribers who get the service for free with a Verizon Unlimited plan. That's a lot less than $12.99 per month.

The survey also highlights the primary threat Disney+ presents to Netflix: The combination of a hugely popular content library, aggressive pricing, and a growing subscriber base means the battle to stay on top is going to get much more difficult for the current leader. They don't call them the streaming wars for nothing.

Published on: Feb 4, 2020
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