The streaming wars are hotting up, as Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and Hulu move in to corner a piece of the online action that until now had been the domain of Netflix. One upstart new streaming service that greatly threatens Netflix’s dominance is Disney+, which added 86.8 million subscribers to its service thanks to massive brand recognition. While Netflix is still ahead with 203.7 million subs, the founder and co-CEO of the company, Reed Hastings, recently acknowledged Disney+’s achievements.
“It’s super-impressive what Disney has done. It’s incredible execution for an incumbent to pivot … so that’s great. And it shows that members are interested and willing to pay more for more content because they’re hungry for great stories. And Disney does have some great stories.”
While Netflix has much more original content than Disney+, the Mouse Empire is the most powerful studio in the history of cinema, whose brand recognition powers are unrivaled in every corner of the globe. On his part, Hastings says Netflix aims to catch up with Disney in terms of family content while pointing out that the rival company’s family-friendly image means they will not be able to offer as diverse a slate of content as Netflix does.
“[Inside the company] it gets us fired up about increasing our membership, increasing our content budget and it’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show by show, movie by movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation – maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see, a long way to go just to catch them – and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating. [An example is the Shonda Rhimes-created Bridgerton], which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”
While it is true that Disney has famously kept its distance from any sort of graphic violence or nudity in its shows or movies, that might well be starting to change. It was recently confirmed that Deadpool 3 had been greenlit by the studio and that the movie will keep to its franchise’s R-rating.
There were also rumors last year that Disney+ will soon include an 18+ section on its site to host more adult content, including the vast slate of movies the Mouse Empire acquired after buying out Fox studio. Clearly, Disney knows that if it wants to compete with other studios, it will need to open up its world to more than kid-friendly content.
For now, Netflix continues to have a comfortable lead over Disney+ when it comes to paying subscribers, so the company need not have any immediate concerns about being outshined by their new rival. As Spencer Wang, head of investor relations at Netflix pointed out, many of the subscribers that count towards Disney+’s total score technically belong to a whole other service.
“Not to take anything away at all from what Disney’s done because it’s been amazing and I’m a happy customer myself, but 30% of their 87 million paid subscribers were Hotstar [in India], which I think we all recognize is a different service.”
This news originally appeared at Deadline.