As you’ve probably read by now, beginning October 12, remaining Disney+ subscribers will see an increase in their monthly charge for ad-free service. Although the platform will remain stable with ads, Disney+ and Disney-owned Hulu will both see significant increases in cost as The Walt Disney Company has reported a $512 million loss in their streaming revenue during their third quarter this year. Although the service is under four years old, it seems that Disney is scrambling to increase the profitability of the once-popular streaming platform. As Disney has spent billions to secure content, including property once owned by Fox, it feels as if increasing the costs of the service while potentially cutting its content availability on a regional basis sounds counterproductive.
Starting in October, ad-free Disney+ will see a 27% increase, with prices rising to $13.99. Hulu will see a similar cost hike of around 20%, rising to $17.99 a month. Services with ads will remain the same. These big chances have turned the internet against The Walt Disney Company, leading to losses in subscribers and trending topics including “cancel Disney Plus.” Following their ongoing feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the extension of lousy press has prompted a mass exodus of active subscribers earlier in the year, and it seems things are not looking up for the streaming service moving forward.
Disney+ Could Benefit From More Original Content
However, despite outward appearances, Bob Iger and entertainment juggernaut The Walt Disney Company may be playing their strategic planning close to the vest. When prompted regarding the potential sale of Disney to other major buyers like Apple, Iger was null in his response, indicating that he would not speculate on the company’s future. Although the overall sale of The Walt Disney Company isn’t likely, the possibility of offloading many of its subsidiaries remains on the table. Placing businesses such as 20th Century Studios, National Geographic, ESPN, and A&E may help stabilize the bleeding that Disney is experiencing, but more is needed to fix the long-term satisfaction with Disney+. In fact, by losing content while hiking prices, Disney could expect to see even more losses as subscribers continue to jump ship.
Upon initially raising costs, Disney can expect another mass exodus of subscribers. However, the bigger picture could see the similar success of rival competitors like Netflix IF Disney were to focus on more original content for its streaming service instead of relying solely on non-Disney programming for views. Netflix, which has historically increased prices, holds a steady reliance on subscribers as many scramble to catch the latest shows and programs like Wednesday (2022), Stranger Things (2016), and Squid Game (2021). If The Walt Disney Company could focus on original programming dedicated to their streaming app, they could potentially replicate the success of films like Encanto (2021) and Soul (2020) which released directly to their app due to COVID-19. Selling a few properties here or- there to big corporations like Apple could fund the creation of original programming that Iger and other Disney executives so desperately need to bring their streaming service back from the dead.
Disney+ Could Revitalize Disney’s Reign at the Box Office
Disney’s recent box office blunders are no secret. Amidst claims of being “woke” and shoving agenda-based programming down the throat of consumers, The Walt Disney Company has faced extensive bashing and boycotting. Although not entirely responsible, combined with the inflated costs of attending movies, the one-time box office king has seen squander after squander with a series of failed film releases. Some may say that Disney has lost touch with its audience by creating a slew of unimaginative remakes of once-classic films. The latest in a long line of failures is Disney’s Haunted Mansion (2023), following in the footsteps of The Little Mermaid (2023) earlier in the year.
Although the future of Disney and Pixar’s film production remains in question due to SAG-AFTRA strikes, the company has reportedly lost somewhere around $900 million at the box office over the last year and a half due to failed endeavors like Lightyear (2022) and Strange World (2022) as well as a dismal 2023. Even popular Marvel films like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2022) haven’t been able to bail out the Walt Disney Company. Although the argument remains heavy that Disney has lost the creative genius that once drove millions to theatres to see their latest projects, some could consider that people simply aren’t going to the movies anymore. Although titles like Barbie (2023) and Oppenheimer (2023) are still large draws, the reoccurring comment via social media is that the typical family can’t afford to go to the movies anymore.
This suggests that Disney should focus more on content specifically for Disney+. However, people still enjoy going to movies and seeing highly marketed features on the big screen. As many understand that they can simply wait until Disney’s latest films are available on the app, this would mean that many are choosing to wait it out instead of being one of the first to see premiering releases. Why spend the money when you know that you can enjoy the movie included with your Disney+ package in a few weeks? And although other non-Disney productions find their way to various streaming services, they are not as easily navigated as Disney. People know that Disney movies will release to Disney+ at some point, effectively killing the “need to” experience Disney in theatres.
Rising Cost to Stream Disney+ Could Drive Viewers Back to Theatres
So although there is still demand for Disney products, how does Disney recoup losses caused by the coming price increases of Disney+ while also coming out green at movie theatres? The answer? Kill content availability in regional markets, and utilize Disney+ to produce specific films and television that are exclusive to the streaming service. Those who aren’t subscribed to Disney+ have no choice but to head to their local theatres to see Disney’s latest films, while those who are subscribed are faced with the same problem. Although those subbed would have access to original, series-based content and everything already available on Disney+, future projects not intended for streaming release would be exclusive to theatres and drive higher ticket sales compared to what Disney has experienced lately. Those who subscribe and those who don’t would have to consider going to theaters to consume releases.
This may initially seem flawed, as many would leave the streaming platform. However, imagine if Disney’s newest remake, Haunted Mansion, had never been released in theatres and instead debuted to Disney+ around Halloween exclusively. The strategy worked last Fall when Disney released its long-awaited sequel Hocus Pocus 2 (2022) to Disney+, resulting in a serious uptick in subscribers who joined the platform just to see the film. The same would’ve worked with Haunted Mansion or The Little Mermaid. Although not considered original content as they are remakes, Disney has the luxury of considering releasing this material exclusively to Disney+ while promoting original content in theatres as well. This would drive ticket sales at the box office and subscribers long-term for their failing streaming service.
The Need for Original, Series-Based Content on Disney+
Comparably speaking, Disney+ needs more in one area when held to the standard of success of other services such as Netflix. Although Netflix has enjoyed great success from original movie content such as Extraction (2022) and Klaus (2019), their bread and butter is their series-based programming. Making a Murderer (2015), Tiger King (2020), and The Queen’s Gambit (2020) are all excellent programming ideas that keep subscribers locked in for hours upon hours. Disney’s approach to streaming is lacking when considering the “binging generation” of consumption from those who choose streaming platforms for their viewing entertainment. There’s nothing there currently outside of a few Marvel productions like Loki (2021) and WandaVision (2021) and Star Wars products like Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022) and The Mandalorian (2019) that keep viewers glued to their couches consuming programming. This should be the intended focus of Disney+ moving forward. Sticking solely to this model would create quality programming that demands binge-watching, while forcing viewers who wish to consume Disney and Pixar films back to theaters. As the relationship between consumer and streaming services becomes more complicated, Disney’s focus to drive movie-goers back to theatres could help revive the entire company.
It’s not likely that Bob Iger would abruptly sell Disney’s streaming service. The company spent a literal fortune collecting content specifically for streaming on Disney+. In addition, despite their recent failures, some things still work for Disney. It makes sense that Disney would separate its production of animated films from Disney+. It’s either branch into two different forms of content, creating a clear divide between feature films and made-for-television content, or allow one to die. As Disney still owns the top three grossing movies all time, Avatar (2009), Avengers: End Game (2019), and Avatar 2: Way of Water (2022), it is unlikely that they’d give up on big picture items anytime soon. Considering the resources and infancy of Disney+, it wouldn’t make sense for them to abandon their streaming platform yet either.