The Streaming Wars: Who Will Win Your Subscription?
The streaming wars are intensifying. Try as you might, you cannot avoid the barrage of ads hitting you at every turn. At a red light? Look up and you’re likely to see a bus or a billboard enticing you to watch the latest must-see star-studded series on this or that streaming platform.
If you watched Dancing with the Stars on ABC last night, there was no avoiding it was Disney night! Coincidence? I think not. Each celebrity dance was an homage to a classic Disney movie and ads for Disney+ were displayed prominently onscreen.
The top streaming platforms all want you! It’s lovely to be wanted, but it can also be overwhelming. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video have already hooked us with top-notch entertainment. Now, we have a few new entrants entering the crowded battlefield and their offerings are quite attractive.
Disney+ and Apple TV are counting on nostalgia and star power, respectively, and with competitive pricing and ad spend in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which streamer will get your attention and subscription?
It’s certainly a marketing blitz, but each of the main players have something unique to bring to the table. Disney+ is pulling at your heartstrings and bringing you back to your childhood. And, what parent doesn’t want to relive watching classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and seeing it for the first time through their child’s eyes? Disney has unleashed a tidal wave of tweets of all the films and shows it plans to have available on day one of its upcoming service launching November 12.
Apple TV has some major star power in its back pocket. Everyone is talking about The Morning Show with a cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Billy Crudup, Néstor Carbonell and Mark Duplass, which is set to premiere with the service November 1.
Apple also announced a series order for Ted Lasso, a new comedy from star, executive producer and writer Jason Sudeikis (Saturday Night Live, We’re the Millers and the Horrible Bosses movies). Sudeikis will play Ted Lasso, an idealistic all-American football coach hired to manage an English football club, despite having no soccer coaching experience. This marks the first TV series Sudeikis has signed on to star in as a series regular since Saturday Night Live.
Disney+ is priced at $6.99 a month ($69.99 a year) and Apple TV is being offered as low as $4.99 a month after a seven-day trial. Do you see what they did here? They know you’ll get hooked after your free week of bingeing. What’s $5 a month? Smart move.
Disney+ is also announcing new star-studded series, including Encore! Executive producer Kristen Bell brings together former students of a high school musical, tasking them with re-creating their original performance in a high school reunion like no other. Emotions run high as they face faded friendships, former flames, self-doubt and killer choreography with the help of Broadway’s best to recreate beloved musicals like “The Sound of Music,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Annie.” Show creator Jason Cohen will also serve as an executive producer.
This is somewhat reminiscent of a time way back in the 1970s when traditional television networks had to deal with cable networks that would start out solely airing movies and eventually decide it would also be a great idea to make their own shows. HBO (1972) and Showtime (1976) were born from this era. Though advertising at the time may have been geared to attracting viewers to an either-or type of scenario, what eventually ended up happening was consumers signed up for both because, at the end of the day, both have excellent original content and air great movies. Could this be the future for the multitude of streaming services now fighting it out? Might we eventually think of these platforms in the same way we think of channels and cable networks?
Each of the ‘Big Five’ (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and the soon-to-be Disney+ and Apple TV) offer terrific entertainment. The question is, what fits your lifestyle, tastes and budget best? It’s most likely going to be a combination of a few.
According to new research from Magid, consumers are willing to subscribe to four streaming services, down from six last year. In addition, it was found that consumers are willing to spend $42 per month on streaming services, up from $36 in 2018. However, despite the desire for multiple streaming platforms, 33% report it’s hard to manage too many. Of those surveyed, 47% were interested in aggregating all paid subscriptions into a single interface, with 26% being very interested.
In a previous article that debated the future of Netflix amidst the onslaught of competition, analyst at eMarketer, Ross Benes, said Netflix has brand awareness on its side. “The media companies behind new streaming services are going to promote their new products heavily to get them in consumers’ minds and habits, but the fact that everyone already knows what Netflix is, will be a huge plus for Netflix.”
This also holds true for Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Each already has us hooked with a slew of tried-and-true fantastic originals, such as the eight-part limited series Unbelievable, The Handmaid’s Tale and Fleabag, which just won several Emmys. And, now that we’re hooked, we are staying put as we wait for new seasons of Dead To Me and Killing Eve. In the meantime, we are getting hooked on more shows, like Amazon’s upcoming eight-part anthology series based on The New York Times’ weekly column, Modern Love (available October 18).
Once you get them hooked, they’re likely to stick around. So, it’s more about which services consumers will add: Apple TV and/or Disney+?
“Disney+ will be the clear leader of the streaming wars. Not only do they have control of 99% of the major superhero franchises, their classic catalog is filled with nostalgic oldies and nostalgia always wins in a marketing war,” says Chief Attribution Officer at C3 Metrics, Jeff Greenfield.
Asher Levin, founder and CEO of Loud Media Entertainment, agrees regarding nostalgia, specifically as it pertains to certain demographics. “By looking back at a library of not just well known hits, but hidden treasures from the 90s and early aughts, Disney+ is creating an emotional connection with the soon-to-be millions of Millennials and Gen Z users on their platform that no other streamer can rival.”
Benes recently referred to the Disney-Netflix dichotomy as misleading. “There will be more competition when Disney and others enter the market, but I don’t expect that these video streaming entrants are going to solely rely on getting people to cancel their Netflix accounts. Instead, companies like Disney will need to convince consumers that they need more streaming packages. I suspect many Disney+ users will retain their Netflix accounts.”
According to Hub Research, Netflix households are more likely to subscribe to Disney+ than other households. And, per eMarketer, Netflix is by far the most popular SVOD. According to their research, Netflix will have 415.8 million individual users worldwide (158.8 million stateside) this year, up 20.6% over 2018, capturing 15.8% of global video viewers.
This is prior to new streamers, including 2020’s NBCU and WarnerMedia, entering the picture. “The fourth quarter marks the beginning of a completely new landscape as former partners like Disney, Apple, NBCU and WarnerMedia become competitors. Netflix’s sheer scale and investments in an AI-powered recommendation engine will give it an advantage over competitors,” says eMarketer forecasting analyst Eric Haggstrom.
To Benes, the most interesting marketing tactic to emerge so far in the streaming wars isn’t a particular campaign, but rather the blocking of certain ads. “Disney prohibiting Netflix ads from running on their TV stations is an intriguing development because it signals that competition is a real threat despite how reluctant executives who oversee streaming services are to acknowledge that.”
Benes also points out that when Disney+ launches, it might not be offered through Amazon Fire TV. “This signals that the TV industry’s carriage disputes and blackouts aren’t going away, they’re just taking new forms.”
Streaming companies are figuring out other ways to tie together disparate products so consumers have a more difficult time leaving. “Bundling isn’t going anywhere,” adds Benes. Tie-ins help streamers lower and avoid churn by making consumers think twice before canceling if doing so includes losing other digital products they rely on.
As examples, Benes point out if you use T-Mobile, you’ll probably keep Netflix because of the lowered price on their package. If you buy a new iPhone or iPad, you’ll be tempted to hang onto Apple TV+ because you’ll get it for free for a year and after that, the price will be so low you’ll probably only cancel if you rarely use it. Disney+ also has a low price and its bundle with Hulu and ESPN+ makes it tempting to keep if you already had Hulu or are a big sports fan. If you subscribed to Spotify and Hulu as a package, it’s tempting to keep Hulu because it costs next to nothing to add. And, if you’re a Comcast internet user, you’ll get NBCU for free, which removes any temptation to cancel unless you switch internet providers.
The future of at-home entertainment, it appears, will be a customized experience for each consumer. Remember, competition is a good thing. It keeps prices low and the quality of the entertainment we’re offered very high.