Disney has announced that its future streaming platform, which should be available in spring 2020 in France following its launch on Nov. 12 in the United States, will release episodes of its new shows on a weekly basis. The opposite of Netflix’s strategy, which should allow it to hold on to its subscribers for longer periods of time.
A new contender is expected in the subscription video on demand ring: Disney+. From Nov. 12 in the United States, the entertainment giant’s streaming service is expected to challenge Netflix. It will attack a titan that has established itself in recent years as the market model. With over 150 million subscribers worldwide in 2019, the red "N" platform has revolutionized the way we watch TV shows.
For $13 a month (standard package), Netflix provides access to hundreds of movies, documentaries and original series, removing the need to wait a week for the release of the next episode of "Stranger Things," one of its hit TV shows. The possibility of "binge watching" - gorging on three seasons in a weekend, as long as you don’t leave your couch - was popularized by Netflix. According to a Médiamétrie survey, at least six out of ten young people regularly engage in "compulsive viewing," as it is called in French.
But Disney is preparing itself to face Netflix. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t intend to incorporate the lethal weapon used by Netflix into its platform, which will undoubtedly make for a dramatic entrance into the world of streaming. Disney has announced that it will release its new shows on a weekly basis. "Star Wars" fans will suffer the same torment as "Dallas" fans did in their time, waiting for seven days before each new episode.
A Stable Subscriber Base
This return to the old formula is likely to frustrate more than one viewer. And yet, it is probably Disney's most promising tactic to establish itself in the highly competitive video on demand market. "By doing this, they can lock in the subscriber,” explains Gilles Pezet, head of the Economic Centre for Digital Networks and Technology at NPA Conseil. For a 10-episode show, they can be sure to keep subscribers for at least three months.
While the growth in Netflix's subscriber base is heavily dependent on its release schedule, releasing episodes over several months can help create a more stable subscriber base. Disney should take advantage of its promising line-up of shows by releasing each new production just before the end of the previous one, thus keeping the attention of its subscribers.
"Disney's goal of reaching 10 million subscribers by the end of the first year shouldn’t be difficult. But keeping them permanently could be more complicated," predicts Gilles Pezet.
The American giant must rely on its biggest strength: its franchises. Cartoons by Walt Disney, of course, but also by Pixar, as well as "Star Wars," "The Simpsons" and the cash machine "Marvel." Disney does not plan to spend as much as Netflix on the production of original content, so it is essential for the company to ensure that its subscribers still return regularly to browse through its catalog.
But the motivation of Disney+ is not only financial. "Ending 'binge-watching' aligns with its strategic positioning to present itself as an 'anti-Netflix,’" the analyst says.
The president of Disney’s streaming division has made it clear that its service will focus on quality over quantity, by focusing on strong brands. Releasing a single episode per week is in line with this quality compared to the “fast food” type of consumption offered by Netflix.
Better yet, this technique helps "maintain discussion" about a show. The success of "Game of Thrones," which has kept millions of viewers in suspense over the last eight years, fuelling the craziest fan theories before the weekly release of each episode, may have inspired Disney. "Even if a series is of top quality, if all the episodes are released at once, there isn’t enough time to capitalize on its success," notes Gilles Pezet.
For Netflix, the buzz surrounding a show doesn’t last more than a few days. This summer, the new season of "Stranger Things" was barely talked about before getting buried by the release of "La Casa de Papel," which was itself eclipsed a few days later by "Mindhunter"...
Disney could score points on another aspect, which may seem more trivial, but is nonetheless "a much-discussed topic on American forums," according to Gilles Pezet: spoilers. By controlling the rate at which episodes are released, Disney can make sure that no one spoils the endings of its shows.
Will Disney bring about the end of the binge-watching era? Bob Iger's company is not the only one to adopt this model. Hulu has already been working like this, and Apple has also announced the weekly release of its content. At a time when Netflix represents the realm of overconsumption of content, Disney is placing its bets on "slow video." And it could work well.