Disney + is unquestionably a success: the streaming service, which was also launched in Germany in March, officially had around 57.5 million paying users worldwide at the end of June. Since then there have been a few more, currently there are said to be over 60 million subscribers – a milestone that Disney originally wanted to reach in 2024.
Therefore, there is no longer any doubt that Disney will in future prefer to rely entirely on video streaming instead of traditional sales channels: the group has just announced that it will be crushing more than twenty of its TV stations internationally.
Fans of physical media have had bad cards at Disney for a long time: The company offers 3D sound only on UHD Blu-rays without any technical need – and then only for the English original sound and not for dubbed versions. And Disney does not even exhaust the 4K discs: The studio denies them the dynamic HDR format Dolby Vision in order to present it as an exclusive feature at Disney +.
It was hardly surprising that the industry website “The Digital Bits” announced that Disney would largely say goodbye to the UHD Blu-ray business: New 4K discs with catalog titles from Disney and new acquisitions 20th Century Studio (formerly Fox) should be available from September there no longer exist.
But Disney denied such a radical step. Rather, individual decisions will be made in the future – which of course says nothing about how many titles will make it onto disc in the end.
How many stay
However, Disney may not be able to afford to bury the physical media quickly. Because whether Disney + is really a worthwhile business is not at all clear: Before the German premiere, Disney had launched annual subscriptions with high margins for advertising partners. Now it remains to be seen how many users Disney + can hold at the end of the year.
The US video streaming service “Quibi”, which was launched at the beginning of April, showed that streaming is not automatically a recipe for success: According to analysts, the offer, which is specially tailored to mobile enjoyment, lost 92 percent of its users after its three-month free test phase. Quibi denies this, but does not give any figures himself and admits problems – and quickly supplied the casting function for TV, which was also missing in the c’t test.
In this country, Apple TV + is the first new video streaming service to be put to the test. When it was launched on November 1 last year, Apple gave away annual subscriptions to buyers of its products and which normally costs 4.99 euros per month. The range of titles from Apple TV + contains quite a few pearls, but is overall very manageable. In the USA, packages from other media groups can now be booked at a reduced price for Apple TV +.
Renewal unwilling Disney + users often say that they are tired of waiting for exciting content – like the second season of “The Mandalorian” or the announced Marvel series. A constant topic in the relevant forums is that the service only offers family-friendly content up to the FSK rating “from 12 years”.
Since Disney + is not to be expanded in this regard, a second Disney service for a more adult audience is needed. In the USA, this role is played by “Hulu”, which the mouse empire also controls. So far it seemed certain that Disney would offer Hulu internationally in the future; The previous CEO Bob Iger had always communicated it that way.
However, the new boss Bob Chapek is now taking a different direction and wants to establish a new service called “Star”. It’s about more than just another name: While Hulu can also access films and series from other studios, Star should only offer its own content. Not only would that simplify the rights situation significantly, Disney + would also not have to share the revenue.
This fits in with how Disney wants to exploit the film “Mulan” in the USA from September 4th, which cannot be shown in cinemas there due to Corona: Like films from other studios, Mulan wants to be made available as a stream at a premium price, but not via the usual purchase and rental services such as Amazon Video or iTunes. Instead, the film is reserved for Disney + subscribers who pay an additional $ 30 one time.
They can then watch the film as often as they want – as long as they remain customers. If they quit, they no longer have access to Mulan. It is still unclear whether you will regain it if you later continue your Disney + subscription with the same account.
It is clear that the fight for subscribers is getting tougher – and not necessarily in favor of the users. For example, Netflix has canceled the free trial month in Germany – probably also because users with multiple accounts had sneaked additional trial months.
In Austria, according to a report by “Standard”, the service is meanwhile turning the price screw: The monthly fee for the premium subscription is to increase from 15.99 to 17.99 euros, with which up to four streams up to UHD Receive resolution. The standard subscription with up to two HD streams will in future cost 12.99 instead of 11.99 euros per month. Only the basic subscription with an SD stream should remain at 7.99 euros per month.
In this country, Netflix last increased subscription prices in April 2019, but German customers should not be spared from another increase in prices. The service has justified the increases so far mainly with a growing range of in-house productions, for which a lot of money is spent. Netflix survived previous price rounds without any user loss. How often that still works remains to be seen.
This article is from c’t 19/2020.