Disney is poised to lead the cord-cutting army

Aditya Saxena

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A seminal event of this decade in the realm of entertainment is about to transpire on Nov. 12 – the launch of Disney’s official streaming service, Disney+. Disney has so far splurged so excessively on its acquisition strategy that it is now left to media outlets to do its marketing. And, thus, I am taking the cue to do so. But before advancing any conservative viewpoints in light of this, I want to underscore the significance of Disney and their impact on cord-cutting, a millennial term coined so as to highlight the change in the television viewing habits of people. When you cut the cord, you nix your cable subscription and switch to an online streaming service (also called an over-the-top subscription in entertainment business jargon) such as Roku or Amazon Fire Stick. 

And it it this incipient cord-cutting trend that Disney wants to exploit. Earlier this year, it went on an acquisition spree to takeover high-flying giants like Fox and Sky (a U.K based television network) and now has begun to pull back its content from existing over the top players like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Notwithstanding that its current catalogue selection already entails a surfeit of prolific and blue-chip celluloid material from almost all known genres and that too all of it, so creatively curated that it fits its demographics (segmented by country or otherwise) perfectly. From Hulu in Japan to Hotstar in other Asia-Pacific countries, it would not be wrong to say that it is essentially the Alphabet of entertainment.

If that wasn’t enough, then consider this: Disney+, launching on Nov. 12, will cost only $5.83 a month, down from Netflix’s $8.99, and include Marvel and Pixar’s library as well as its own originals. The service is going to focus on high-end brands like “Toy Story”, “The Simpsons” and “Star Wars”, and will be available on Roku and Playstation as well as “a full array of platforms in place” post its launch. Also, all its content will be free of ads, and downloadable and accessible offline on an unlimited basis on all its platforms. The only caveat is that it is likely to lose money between now and 2023 and expects to be profitable only by 2024, according to its CFO Christine McCarthy. In other words, Disney is making a huge bet, as the Washington Post reports, on cord-cutting. 

Cord-cutting, or rather this over-the-top video streaming, is presently a nascent market. With the advent of Youtube TV, Sling TV, Netflix, and the upcoming Apple’s own video streaming service (operating under the Apple all-in-one subscriptions banner) along with Disney’s, top industry analysts have predicted it to have a soft landing until 5G becomes mainstream, after which, it is expected to gain steady momentum culminating with the total elimination of traditional cable viewing from households to hotels. If the costs can be further reduced and content more diversified, Disney would virtually transform into an invincible monopoly.  

It would also be interesting to track the growth trajectory of Netflix as it doubles down on its originals production and loses a valuable chunk of its catalogue to those who are now foraying into the lucrative world of online video streaming. One other important to also ponder over would be whether the success of a show going to offset the poor quality of the user interface of an application. For example, CBS has a terrible user interface but a programming worthy of getting a subscription. Viewers are often going to find themselves divided over this issue as I was. Lastly, it is also going to be imperative to see how piracy and free video streams are curtailed as over-the-top players usher us to a new era.