The streaming wars are here.
With a massive library of popular shows and movies from Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and more, Disney+ is poised to be Netflix’s biggest competitor when it launches on Tuesday.
And that’s just the start. In the coming months, AT&T’s WarnerMedia will launch HBO Max and Comcast’s NBCUniversal will start its first streaming service called Peacock. (Apple’s streaming service Apple TV+ launched earlier this month, but its library is limited to just a handful of shows. It’s not expected to be a major player in streaming until it can beef up its programming.)
Netflix may have a head start with more than 150 million subscribers across the globe, but Disney has priced Disney+ at a very attractive $6.99 per month, making it a no-brainer as an add-on to your current streaming or cable TV package. On top of that, Verizon wireless subscribers with unlimited plans have the option to get Disney+ free for a year, which could help boost Disney’s subscriber count into the millions before the year is up.
Meanwhile, Netflix has been steadily raising its prices over the last few years. Its most popular plan costs $12.99 per month. While Netflix has been optimistic about the rising tide of new competitors lifting all players in streaming, it also admitted in its third-quarter earnings report that increased competition and higher pricing could limit its subscriber growth.
Disney has yet another attractive offer. Disney will give subscribers Disney+, Hulu (with ads) and ESPN+ in a bundle for $12.99 per month. That means you get to stream shows from NBC, ABC, Fox and more, a bunch of ESPN stuff and everything on Disney+ for the same price you’re already paying for Netflix. It’s the best deal in streaming.
HBO Max, which includes all the standard HBO shows plus more content from WarnerMedia like “Big Bang Theory” and “Friends,” goes for $14.99 per month, the same price as “regular” HBO. (The hope is that HBO subscribers will convert to Max.) NBCUniversal’s ad-supported Peacock is expected to be free for everyone, CNBC reported earlier this month. (There’ll also be a paid, ad-free version.)
Now for the kicker.
Don’t expect all this free and cheap streaming to last. Right now the goal for all these new services is to grow their subscribers as quickly as possible. Eventually, the prices will go up. It’s the same strategy Netflix has employed over the years: get subscribers hooked on the service, then gradually raise prices. The first battle in the streaming wars will be over eyeballs.
The money comes later.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC.