Local Nerd’s Hot Take: Disney+ is the devil you know

We all have a favorite childhood Disney movie, whether we like to admit it or not. Some of us grew up with “Toy Story” character toys that we reenacted the movies with, some had “Finding Nemo”-themed birthday parties to celebrate a special day with our love of the sea, and some kept their fingers crossed walking through doors in hopes that they would wander into the “Monsters, Inc.” world. And hey, I will even humor the idea that there are indeed a handful of folks who do not have any fond memories of Disney movies, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that these people do not have any love for “Marvel” or “Star Wars” — I mean, who is not a fan of those two properties these days? 

Disney knows this, and oh do they understand the power behind all that magical, nerdy nostalgia. Hence, this past fall, a Disney-exclusive streaming service, Disney+, launched and made available at the click of a button Disney’s animated, live-action and cartoon films, the full “Marvel” Cinematic Universe Collection, every “Star Wars” film to date, exclusive original content and even “National Geographic” for good measure. All of this? For just $6.99 per month? You would be a fool to not think that it is a steal, and it absolutely is. It is another theft of competition in the long game Disney has been playing for some time now. In case you missed the memo, Disney is a terrifyingly huge monopoly, and one thing monopolies love to do is either buy out the competition or force them out of the game, and the latter is exactly the tactic they are employing with Disney+. Because if you have to choose between paying more hard-earned cash for the more unpredictable Netflix, or even Amazon Prime Video, and paying less for the comfort and safety of Disney+, well, better the devil you know. 

Let us unpack the hyper-competition of Disney+ by talking about the streaming services themselves and how much they cost. As I mentioned already, the basic package of Disney+ is $6.99 a month, while Netflix’s basic package comes just a little bit higher at $8.99 a month. At surface level, this does not seem to be a big deal; sure, Disney+ is cheaper, but not terribly so, and if one wanted the best of both worlds, it would only cost about $16 per month. However, the details of each package are what reveal the problem here. At their $8.99 monthly rate, Netflix only enables a user to stream to one device at a time, and only in the standard definition of 480p. The “standard” package, at a monthly rate of $12.99, allows for two devices at the same time and HD-quality streaming (1080p), while “premium,” now up to a $15.99 rate, provides streaming to four devices and 4K streaming (2160p). Conversely, Disney+’s basic plan gives users four screens of simultaneous streaming and 4K support right off the bat. The next and only other deal is a package of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month, the same price as Netflix’s standard package, if you are keeping score. 

Now, your response to this may be very simple — Disney has simply provided a better deal for consumers, while Netflix has been introduced to new competition, and this is not entirely wrong. Disney has provided a better deal, and the new and notable competition for Netflix creates an opportunity for innovation and lower prices — sometimes capitalism does good things! — but when you think about the companies themselves, you begin to see the bigger picture. As I said before, Disney holds a huge stake in entertainment intellectual property, has a long business history in comparison to Netflix, operates worldwide, has massively popular amusement parks and sells no shortage of merchandise for basically every franchise they have or create. Not only would this grant any company heaps of cash, but also, because it is a monopoly and there is no legitimate comparable competition, Disney can keep prices for merchandise, their parks and everything else high and maximize their profits. In short, Disney has some money to burn. While Netflix is by no means poor and has had its own sort of monopoly in the realm of streaming services for some time now, it pales in comparison to the wealth and reach of Disney. So, while I will say that I know little about the costs of upholding a streaming service, Disney+’s $6.99 price tag is suspiciously low, and if Disney wants to sell their service at a marginal profit, or just to break even, to oust competition, they can certainly afford to do so, and Netflix is much more limited in its means of fighting that. As with Disney’s aforementioned money-makers, should Disney+ supersede Netflix, do not expect the $6.99-a-month “steal” to last.

I could go on and on about this topic, and those of you that have talked about Disney+ around me know that I have, but this is the main root of the problem: Disney can afford to lose some profit to take Netflix’s throne, and then some. So yeah, Disney+ is a great deal and a great service, but think about what you are paying for. If you decide to cancel your other streaming services and just go all in on Disney+, well, I hope you are ready to fork over more dollars to keep seeing Baby Yoda when prices go up. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.