This year, consumers were met with the announcement of three new streaming services: HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Disney Plus. Currently, Netflix is the most popular streaming service with nearly 140 million subscribers worldwide. With Netflix soon to lose the licensing to many of its popular titles, the promising plans for Disney Plus, HBO Max and Peacock give them a fighting chance to survive in this market.
The top contender to become the new king of streaming, Disney Plus, is making its debut on Tuesday, Nov. 12 in North America. With a rate of $6.99 a month for ad-free streaming, it is nearly half the price of its competitors, Netflix and Amazon TV. But with half the price Disney Plus comes with only half the content library, totaling 7,500 television episodes and 500 films. Despite their smaller content library, Disney Plus understands that it’s their recognizable franchises that will get their subscribers hooked. While certain Marvel TV shows and Pixar movies will stay on Netflix until 2020, Disney plans to end its licensing agreements with the streaming giant and has stopped all 2019 Disney releases from appearing there as well.
This is where Disney Plus has an advantage because it will be the only place where consumers can watch newly released movies such as “Toy Story 4,” or “Frozen 2.” At the same time, the platform will be providing iconic content such as the original Star Wars films, all Marvel Studios films and all 30 seasons of “The Simpsons.” If that isn’t enough, Disney Plus invokes a sense a nostalgia with its audience by creating several new original series that will be spin-offs of previous beloved Disney works such as the “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.”
The release of Disney Plus goes hand in hand with Comcast agreeing to sell its ownership stake in Hulu to Disney. Disney has gained full operational control of Hulu and plans to use the service as a platform to host its adult content. It all comes together because, eventually, Disney plans to create a bundle where consumers can get Disney Plus, ad-supported Hulu and ESPN Plus for $12.99 a month. This combination of services is virtually the same price as a Netflix subscription but will appeal to a wider range of ages, which might be just enough to secure Disney Plus the number one spot.
NBC Universal will kick off the new year with the release of its own streaming service, Peacock, in April 2020. What will make-or-break Peacock is the direction that NBCUniversal decides to take it. As of right now, it seems that NBCUniversal is planning to make an ad-supported version of Peacock that will be free for anyone with the option to pay for an ad-free version.
With over 15,000 hours of entertainment, their line-up looks promising with classics like “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Downton Abbey” and the “Fast and Furious” franchise. NBCUniversal also intends to follow the trend of creating original shows, with reboots of “Saved by the Bell,” “Battlestar Galactica” and a “Brave New World” TV series, just to name a few things currently in the works.
Yet, even with Netflix’s number one most streamed series, “The Office,” it is unlikely Peacock will survive if NBCUniversal decides to make it a paid subscription service. This is because unlike Disney Plus and HBO Max, NBCUniversal isn’t aggressively pulling its shows off other streaming services right away. “The Office” will remain on Netflix until 2021, and with Peacock’s original shows needing time to generate buzz, NBCUniversal’s current catalog isn’t strong enough to justify a full monthly fee. A free ad-supported service is their best shot at staying relevant in this competitive market.
Following closely behind with its U.S. release date set for May 2020 is HBO Max. To start off, HBO Max has the strongest line up of ad-free licensed content. It has acquired the rights to popular shows such as “Pretty Little Liars,” “South Park,” “Rick and Morty,” “Doctor Who,” “Friends” and will bring over award-winning shows from HBO Now like “Game of Thrones” and “Euphoria.” HBO Max challenges Disney’s Marvel Studios by integrating all of the DC Comics movies from the past decade into its own content library, with old and new DC Comics TV shows planning to follow shortly after. It also rivals Disney Plus with its plan for follow-ups to well-known franchises; the platform is planning a reboot or prequel for “Adventure Time,” “Gossip Girl” and “Looney Toons.”
The biggest barriers to HBO Max’s success is its higher price and its smaller selection for children. While HBO Max will have a handful of kid-friendly shows like “Sesame Street” and a new Elmo late night talk show, it is nowhere close to matching Disney Plus or Netflix’s selection for children. HBO Max is currently the most expensive major streaming platform, at $14.99 a month. This high price is not encouraging for new subscribers who can be easily enticed by the lower prices of Disney Plus or Hulu.
Unlike other platforms, HBO Max will have a built-in audience upon release since customers who are already subscribed to HBO Now or AT&T wireless can easily switch over and get double the amount of content for no added price. By charging this heftier monthly price, HBO Max is banking on customers to remain faithful and fans to be dedicated to their favorite shows. As of November 2018, “Friends” was the second most streamed show on Netflix in the U.S. and considering the show has been off-air for 15 years, this is a promising sign for HBO Max who obtained exclusive rights to the show. With the continued popularity of shows like “Friends” meeting with critically acclaimed titles like “Game of Thrones,” HBO Max might be able to cultivate a loyal enough fanbase to keep their platform afloat.
While Netflix and Amazon TV may still have the upper hand with their current ability to reach international viewers, over time they will most likely have trouble keeping up with the low prices of Disney Plus and Peacock and the high-quality content of HBO Max. Disney Plus especially finds a good balance between price and quality titles that could draw people away from their old streaming services. While nothing can be said for sure until all three are officially released, it seems 2020 could mark the end of the Netflix and chill era.