Is Disney+ without The Mandalorian like going to Disneyland and finding Space Mountain is closed? Is it still worth the price of admission?
It feels like one of the best streaming shows of the decade was with us for but a fleeting moment. After a mere eight episodes, the show that propelled Disney Plus to 24 million subscribers and gave Baby Yoda his cultural moment is on hiatus. No date is announced for season two of The Mandalorian (update: sometime in Fall ’20), so fans don’t even have a timeline for their new favorite Star Wars obsession.
And it’s not just Disney’s new streaming service losing some choice subscriber-bait. Apple TV’s The Morning Show has also finished its first season, with subscribers having to wait around 12 months for season two.
Given this high production original content was the main reason I subscribed to these services, is it worth continuing, or should I put them on hiatus too? And what are the implications for streaming pricing strategies overall?
Let’s take a look at what each service costs, and some of their current and upcoming shows.
The headline price for Disney+ in the US is $6.99 per month or $69.99 prepaid for a year ($5.83 per month). If you’re a new Verizon customer, a year of free Disney+ is included in your subscription. If you bundle Disney with Hulu and ESPN+, it’s yours for $12.99 a month, which is excellent value, particularly if you’re into the subset of sports available on ESPN’s service (no cricket though sadly, although the excellent Willow TV takes care of that).
If you have kids, then the past month has probably seen some solid hours spent watching the Disney+ service. It is really a family-centric offering. Disney packed in everything from their vaults, going all the way back to 1928’s Steamboat Willie, the show that introduced Mickey Mouse to the world. All the classic Disney movies are here, including 1955’s Lady And The Tramp, and its 2019 live-action remake.
Beyond the library of Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars, there are some solid originals. Imagineering Story and One Day At Disney, both behind-the-scenes peeks at the workings of the Walt Disney Corporation, are excellent (if slightly trending towards the infomercial genre in parts).
Along with season 2 of The Mandalorian, Star Wars fans have Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rogue One spin-offs to look forward to in 2020. The Marvel Cinematic Universe will generate at least 8 original series over 2020-21, including Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and Ms. Marvel.
Other original highlights include The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Pixar In Real Life and Marvel: Hero Project.
It’s certainly not a Netflix-like volume of original content, but what Disney+ lacks with the quantity it makes up in quality, especially for MCU/Star Wars fans and parents with kids that need to be entertained on a regular basis.
Apple TV+ pricing is simple: $4.99 per month, or free for a year with the purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or Mac. Certainly the cheapest of the main streaming services, but for good reason…
Without a film library stretching back 80 years, Apple starts a long way behind Disney in the content department. But Apple (market cap $1.29 trillion) is a hardware company transitioning to services, not a legacy entertainment business like Disney (market cap $262 billion).
Apart from The Morning Show, the current line up of originals includes space drama For All Mankind, the documentary The Elephant Queen, kids show Helpsters and Snoopy in Space and M. Night Shyamalan’s Servant.
For 2020 and beyond, a slate of 30-40 original series and movies is planned, including fantasy genre Amazing Stories, Shantaram, The Banker starring Samuel L. Jackson, and at least three Oprah Winfrey-led docuseries. Apple is just getting started in the entertainment production business so expect the content depth and breadth to get better over time.
Getting Apple TV+ subscribers to stick around depends on effectively building buzz around the content, but with 30-40m iPhones sold each year bundled with a free trial, they will certainly have a solid audience to start with.
Both Apple and Disney will be under pressure to retain subscribers in 2020 as new services like NBCU’s Peacock ($10/month) and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max ($15/month) debut, and Netflix ($9-$16/month) continues to churn out new content and potentially even get creative with pricing.
If you subscribed all these services it would add to around $52 per month (not to mention some of the popular niche services). Add in internet connection costs, and most people will have to make some choices about what to stream in 2020. May the best content win!