Disney Wants to Be Netflix Now

Illustration for article titled Disney Wants to Be Netflix Now
Image: Disney+

We probably could have seen this coming.

Disney announced today that it’s restructuring its media and entertainment businesses to focus on its streaming services—one area that’s currently thriving as other parts of the Walt Disney Company grapple with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, Disney+ has been a monumental success since it launched late last year, with CEO Bob Chapek revealing during the company’s third-quarter earnings report that Disney’s collective streaming services had soared to 100 million paid subscribers as of August.


Now, the company’s three primary content creation groups, which cover Studios, General Entertainment, and Sports, “will be responsible and accountable for producing and delivering content for theatrical, linear and streaming, with the primary focus being the Company’s streaming services.” In other words, it sounds like Disney’s next big move is to pivot to being Netflix.

“We’re putting the consumer first,” Chapek said during an interview with Closing Bell. “The consumer’s actually going to be who’s going to make this decision. They’re going to lead us with the way they make their transactional decision. Right now, they are voting with their pocketbooks, and they are voting very heavily towards Disney+.”

Disney’s enterprises are definitely feeling the effects of the global health crisis, as businesses must adjust to new mandates for social distancing and proper covid-19 precautions. Many of its movies, like those of other major studios, are seemingly stuck in a kind of uncertain limbo amid theater closures and constantly changing release windows. Its network of parks are a mess, and Disney recently laid off 28,000 of its parks staff as a result of “limited capacity due to physical distancing requirements and the continued uncertainty regarding the duration of the pandemic.”

With no immediate end to the pandemic in sight, studios have been forced to either release their films to modest crowds in the theaters that are currently open, move their big-budget release dates, or release films as premium fixtures of their respective streaming services. For a vertically integrated company like Disney, and with a platform that’s been such a tremendous success, streaming releases offer an opportunity to make back some of what the company sank into a film by charging you $30 to stream its blockbuster films before they officially roll out wide on Disney+ months later.

Right now, Disney appears to be doing what virtually every other content-creating streaming service is doing right now: churn out content at a breakneck clip. Hopefully Disney will avoid the kind of depraved content greenlighting a la Netflix that gave us series like Love Is Blind. But who can really say?

Correction: This article previously stated that Disney+ had reached 100 million subscribers, where this number in actuality represented Disney’s collective streaming services. We regret the error.



Arcanum Five

I’m no fan of the fractured state of streaming, but this move makes sense for the Mouse. Despite the rantings of the orange dipshit, things have changed, and they aren’t going to get miraculously better on November 4th, January 21st, or whatever date seems significant. Movies and theme parks are not coming back to full strength next year even if there’s a vaccine.

I love the theater experience and have even worked in and managed movie theaters, but I’m the first to admit that model of film distribution is facing technological (and now social) changes that have made it essential that the theater and film industries rethink that model.