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Disney/Netflix Petition Based on Unrealistic Expectations

25 Aug, 2017 By: Thomas K. Arnold


I couldn’t help but chuckle at the petition drive urging Walt Disney Co. not to pull its content from Netflix.

Petitioners, comprised primarily of cord-cutters who no doubt expected to reap huge savings from canceling their cable service, call the pullout “a huge blow to Netflix users and Disney lovers who don’t want to have to pay double to access the content we love,” the Care2 petition says. “Historically, we could buy a movie or TV show from any number of sources. But now, we’re being forced to buy subscriptions to multiple sources just to get the content we love.”

No sympathy here for any pity party. My dear consumers, you can still buy movies or TV shows “from any number of sources.” Buy a Blu-ray Disc or DVD at Walmart or Best Buy or Amazon; buy a digital copy from iTunes, Vudu, Xfinity or any of a growing number of other online sellers.

In fact, the selection of movies and TV shows you can buy is far greater than the selection you can access through Netflix.

And for a good reason: When you watch Netflix, you’re not buying a movie or TV show. You’re not even paying for streaming rights to a specific program. You’re spending about the same amount of money you’d normally spend on one new movie, either on disc or as a download, for an entire month of viewing — and that’s why you have no right to be so picky.

In fact, most studios don’t sell any of their movies to Netflix — at least, nothing newer than nine or 10 years old. Even Netflix’s big announcement in May 2016 that it would be the exclusive online home to Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm movies was a little grandiose: Only a handful of movies were made available every month, and only after they had exhausted their sales potential, with a similar window to that on HBO, Starz and other pay-TV networks.

The popularity of Netflix has never been based on movies. The growth driver has been binge-viewing of TV shows, first popular network shows and now original programming. The movie lineup at Netflix has always been, and likely will continue to be, anemic, with the good new stuff reserved for the purchase market.

Indeed, Gizmodo last October reported that Netflix’s content library is increasingly losing its best movies: “The Streaming Observer did some analysis, and found that only 31 movies from the IMDb Top 250 are currently available on Netflix. … Even worse than the paltry selection of movies, it’s noteworthy that this figure is actually down 12% from 2014, when a Reddit user documented the 49 available films from the IMDb Top 250 then available on Netflix. The IMDb Top 250 has changed over the last two years as well, but the decrease in titles is still significant.”

Will the loss of Disney movies hurt Netflix? I doubt it — not as long as the service keeps cranking out original content (last year, Netflix said its goal was 50% original content within the next few years).

But with Disney planning to launch its own streaming service in concert with the 2019 withdrawal from Netflix, it certainly needs what we in the business call a unique selling proposition — and creating its own streaming silo for Disney movies and TV shows certainly sounds like smart business sense to me.

The petitioners, while clearly ignorant of the economics of the movie/TV business, were right on one count: they’re going to have to buy subscriptions “to multiple sources just to get the content we love.”

And you know what? They’re going to wind up buying those extra subscriptions, regardless of how much they are protesting now.

 



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