Mickey Mouse wants your credit card. Should you give it to him?
The corporate juggernaut that is Disney has thrown their hat into the ring of streaming. Hoping to grab market dominance on the digital frontier, akin to what they enjoy in theaters, they’ve brought out Disney+. Despite already being the de facto boss over at Hulu, Disney+ is a separate service with a largely separate suite of films and TV to offer.
The streaming wars had largely settled in to a three way stalemate with Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix. Now the cold war is getting hot again with Disney, Apple, and NBC all eyeing a piece of the pie. You’re soon going to be up to your eyeballs in movie studios carving off their products and asking you for 7 bucks to get them back. Accordingly, we decided to put Disney+ through its paces and see if it’s worth ticket price to enter this Magical Kingdom.
Disney+ resembles most modern streaming apps. There is a homepage with featured categories. Several curated lists are available from there, as well as from the search page. Search functions are fairly robust, allowing you to search for films, actors, keywords, and genres.
The design is simple and sleek, avoiding a lot of clutter or attention seeking side-bars. Due to a deal to get some of their content back, Disney does allow STARZ to put banner ads on some pages, but they’re the only ads you’ll run in to, inside or outside of the content.
There’s quite a few roads into the Magic Kingdom. Disney+ can be had as a stand-alone for 6.99 (USD) a month or 69.99 a year (two months free). You can add it to your Amazon or Hulu account for the monthly price. There is a free week trial, but you need to opt for one or the other package and put down a card.
If you want to consolidate, you can get a bundle with ESPN+ and Hulu. It runs 12.99 with ads on Hulu, 18.99 without ads. Seeing as ad-free Hulu is 11.99, that’s pretty competitive.
Currently no add-ons for D+ exist, so you’ll have to get your HBO or STARZ the old fashioned way.
Disney+ streams video and TV at the resolution of the device being used to watch it, up to and including UltraHD and HDR. While not everything goes up that high, much of the Disney, Marvel films, and Pixar features are capable of it.
You can access Disney+ across multiple platforms with a single account. It works for iOS, Apple, and Android products, both PS4 and Xbox One consoles, Amazon Fire and Roku devices, and LG and Samsung smart TV’s. I tested it out on an android cell phone, an Amazon FireStick, Samsung smart TV, and Xbox One. There was no appreciable difference in quality and functionality across these, but mobile phones were more prone to buffering delays depending on the strength of your network reception/Wi-Fi.
Disney+ boasts a collection of everything Disney/Beuna Vista owns…which increasingly these days means everything. Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Star Wars all live under that banner. National Geographic is included, supplying travel and documentary features. The acquisition of FOX brings mostly old X-Men cartoons and The Simpsons to the roster at this time. Disney owns FOX, ABC, and A+E, so it will be interesting to see which other properties arrive on Disney+.
The Disney vault is open, giving you access to hundreds of old and new movies, both animated and live-action. Not everything is there; I’m sure Disney will rotate some properties in and out to keep the roster from becoming stale.
New original content is also being produced for the service. One new film, Lady and the Tramp, is out, as well as a travel series with Jeff Goldblum and the hotly anticipated Star Wars series, The Mandalorian. More, like a sequel to Hocus Pocus, is in the works.
Disney+ is an odd duck. On one hand, the pedigree of its library is unmatched. These are some of the most popular films of all time, filled with modern hits and favorite classics. There is also breadth to the offerings, so you’re not just binging old animated legends. On the other hand, they’re also mostly known quantities. There are some hidden gems, but I only know they’re gems cause I’ve seen them before. Most people are going to be familiar with 90% of this catalog.
That leaves Disney with a “retention” problem. Once you’ve indulged yourself on your favorites (probably before your free week is even up!) there’s not a lot to keep you coming back. With Hulu, new TV series land all the time, giving you on-going content. Netflix releases 25+ new originals every month; at least a couple of them are going to strike your fancy. Amazon Prime has other merits, namely being your online store that just happens to throw occasional new movies in for free.
Disney’s answer to this problem would be to mainline/divert their theater offerings to you. They release 6-8 movies a year, and they are, once again, the most sought after films of any given year. This runs them right into another problem: If I do decide to do Disney+, why the hell would I ever pay 15 bucks to see their films in a theater? All their Marvel stuff is in UltraHD, so I can get that theater experience for The Avengers 9000 at home instead.
Disney+ is a great value, for sporadic use. They want to compete with Netflix. They’re really competing with HBO. Just like HBO, there are some must-see offerings. Just not every month. It’s telling that The Mandalorian is episodic instead of dropped in season batches. They need you to get hooked on a marquee series and justify the seven bucks to stay current.
Instead, I’d rather do what I do for HBO or STARZ: wait for the series I’m interested in to finish, then sign up, binge the hell out of everything they have that I want, and cancel in a month. Wait a year till enough content is banked up, and repeat. If Disney+ really thinks they’re up to scrapping with Netflix, they need a ton of new content every month. And I don’t mean High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, or Jeff Goldblum being weird for 30 minutes at a time. Nobody thinks that’s worth seven dollars.