Early this week, the news broke that Disney had been in talks to acquire a large portion of 21st Century Fox. Reportedly, the negotiations have stalled, but the past several days have seen a steady flow of information regarding the two studios’ interest in the potential sale. To wit, the powers that be at Fox have come to believe that they need to narrow their focus – specifically to sports and news outlets – in order to remain competitive. But what about Disney? Well, when the news first broke, the most immediately obvious benefits involved things like the distribution rights to the first six ‘Star Wars’ films and the opportunity to bring the ‘X-Men’ film rights home to Marvel. But as compelling as those possibilities might be to us as fans, we soon learned that Disney’s interest was driven primarily by their planned streaming service.
Disney’s streaming plans, you may recall, were publicly confirmed this summer, with the announcement that the studio would be pulling their content from Netflix in favor of their own platform. At the time, it seemed the service would serve as a hub of sorts for Disney’s film and TV offerings, everything from ‘Snow White’ to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. While that remains, broadly speaking, the case, what has become clear this week is that Disney is treating their platform as a direct competitor to Netflix. To that end, their interest in the Fox deal was, it seems, largely driven by the possibility of not only acquiring Fox’s various intellectual properties but in bringing them – one presumes exclusively – to their own streaming platform.
Now, with or without Fox’s library, Disney has more than enough content to make a proprietary streaming service an attractive option to a lot of people, even with a certain degree of fatigue (“Ugh, another streaming service?!”) setting in among the general public. But regardless of content, in an increasingly crowded streaming landscape, one question is paramount: “How much is it going to cost?” Well, believe it or not, there’s actually some good news on that front, courtesy of Disney CEO Bob Iger:
“Our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is. That is in part reflective of the fact it’ll have less volume.”
Netflix, for those not keeping score, currently runs between $7.99 and 13.99 a month. While it’s purely speculative, Business Insider reported in September on a series of projections by UBS that estimated a monthly price of $8.99 for the service. Based on Iger’s comments, they certainly seem to have landed in the right ballpark. Further speculation depends on how one treats Iger’s remarks with regard to Netflix’s tiered pricing. That $8.99 projection is less than Netflix’s most expensive option, but more than they’re cheapest. So – from a certain point of view – it may well be right on the money. If, however, he meant that Disney’s offering would be cheaper than Netflix across the board, then we could well be looking at a price closer to $5.00 per month. If that turns out to be the case, the question then becomes one of advertising. After all, Hulu has a cheaper-than-Netflix option, but you’ll have to pay a bit more if you don’t want to deal with ads. Disney could implement a similar model, or they could forego advertising altogether. Time will tell.
Be sure to check back with ScienceFiction.com for more on this story as it develops.