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Pros and Cons: Digesting the Unveiling of Disney+

The streaming service has a launch date, a ton of preexisting IP, and some pretty bad branding  

Disney/Ringer illustration

We’ve known since 2017 that Disney was going to use its multibillion-dollar might to enter the streaming wars and compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. Disney had some great things going for it when it initially announced those plans—for one, a Disney streaming service would ostensibly hold exclusive rights to all things Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars—and its case to become a permanent feature in your living room has only gotten stronger. Disney has since acquired most of 21st Century Fox, owns a 60 percent stake in Hulu, and is hard at work creating streamer-exclusive content from the Marvel and Star Wars universes.

That’s a lot of hype, and the company tried to crystallize those expectations Thursday with a formal presentation of its streaming service, Disney+. (You can read a full thread of Disney+ tidbits here.) The short version: Disney+ will arrive November 12, initially cost $6.99 a month, and include 25 original series and 10 original movies to go along with a back catalog of Disney IP. For the longer version, let’s go through the pros and cons from the biggest Disney+ news drop to date—and what it could all mean for people tempted to subscribe come November.

Pro: Starting Price

At $6.99 per month—or $69.99 for a full year, which amounts to a monthly cost of under $6—Disney+’s initial starting price is nearly half the current cost of Netflix’s standard plan. (Netflix subscribers can start as low as nine dollars a month, but its standard plan—including high-definition streaming, which is what you really want—comes at 13 bucks.) That price is tempting in the most basic terms: You’re paying roughly half of what you would for Netflix and getting a digital cache of all things Disney—as well as some Fox things, including every season of The Simpsons.

That’s not to suggest millions of people will suddenly cancel their Netflix accounts in favor of Disney+. It’s just that it’s easier to make the case for adding another streaming service when the cost is comparatively cheap; most people could probably squeeze an extra $7, or a $70 dollar annual hit, into their budgets. (Amazon Prime is a slightly different beast at $13 a month, in that it offers a lot beyond a streaming service, including free two-day shipping.)

Disney+ likely won’t stay this cheap for long—Netflix has incrementally raised its monthly subscription price for years—but it’s a good incentive to dive in right at launch. An annual plan is particularly tempting, since it’ll cost less upfront and can, depending on future price hikes, be an even greater bargain if you’re locked in at $70 for a full year when the company eventually decides to bump up the cost.

Con: Diversity of Original Content

Alongside some Marvel series and The Mandalorian—the first live-action Star Wars show from Jon Favreau, which will be available at launch—Disney revealed what else will be on offer with the streaming service. There weren’t a lot of first-looks available, but the production still for a live-action Lady and the Tramp movie left … a lot to be desired.

So Disney is basically making Homeward Bound with spaghetti—weird flex, but OK. Not that there isn’t a place for something like this on Disney+, but it looks like a straight-to-DVD quality film when the streamer should be touting its highest quality offerings.

Beyond that, there was very little information on the rest of its original programming—there will also be an Anna Kendrick–starring movie at launch, where she plays Santa’s daughter—but it does speak to the potential direction for Disney+ and how the service plans to market itself. The impetus is family-friendly entertainment—basically, what Disney has long been known for—with a side of 21st Century Fox properties. It’s hard to imagine, but technically Fox’s Alien and Predator franchises are now under the Disney umbrella, and it’s likely that these extremely violent movies will become available to stream at some point. Throwing these all together under one digital library is the kind of thing Netflix has been doing for years—you can find the gruesome thrills of Ozark next to the kids show Trollhunters—but Disney’s reputation as the family-friendly entertainment conglomerate might cause a bit of internal friction as it juggles the gory violence inherent to Predator movies alongside a couple of cute dogs eating spaghetti.

Con: Names

I could go on a whole diatribe about how adding a plus sign to your name isn’t good, but as it turns out, Disney+ isn’t the only example of the company’s struggle with naming things. You probably already knew there was going to be a Marvel series focused on Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, and Vision. My question to you is, what would you name it: Scarlet Witch & Vision? The Adventures of Scarlet Witch and Vision? Vision Quest? What about [puts down bong] WandaVision?

I’m sure the show will be of the utmost quality that fans have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the title WandaVision leads me to believe the Marvel brain trust snorted a line of Vision’s signature paprika. WandaVision is an objectively bad name, like a product Billy Mays might’ve tried to sell you. But I look forward to the romantic adventures between a sentient robot that happens to look like Paul Bettany and a telepathic woman whose European accent was apparently wiped out by Thanos.

Disney is also getting a little colon-happy (not as weird as it sounds) for the upcoming original series, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. (Not a joke. Seriously: This is the name.)

Disney, you’re doing great, sweetie. But have you considered workshopping?

Pro: The Bundle Potential

With Disney’s majority stake in Hulu—plus the fact ESPN also falls under its umbrella—the company’s chairman of direct-to-consumer division, Kevin Mayer, confirmed it is “likely” that the services of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ will eventually be available in a bundle. That means, of course, access to not only Disney content, but all the original programming at Hulu (including shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock) and a plethora of live sporting events and sports-related shows via ESPN.

Bundling is a good incentive for potential subscribers, who may enjoy some combination of Disney stuff, Hulu’s more prestige offerings (and some of its next-day streaming from network TV), and sports. My own rationale behind an Amazon Prime subscription is that it comes with a ton of Amazon benefits—it’s a bundle of a different sort. Having Disney, Hulu, and ESPN together as a cost-saving measure is just another way to convince millions of people to give the new service a shot.

Combined with an impressive back catalog of Disney IP—including more than 7,000 episodes of current and off-air shows, 400 movie titles, and recent theatrical releases such as Captain Marvel—there is a lot to like about Disney+ before its launch. It might not immediately cater to all entertainment needs—and Disney might not be very good at naming its programs—but its potential to bundle with Hulu and ESPN, along with exclusive Marvel and Star Wars content, makes it a tangible competitor to Netflix in the near future. At the very least, we can all agree Disney provided a lot more clarity about its forthcoming streaming plans than Apple.