Less than a month after Apple announced its new Apple TV+ streaming service, Disney has also thrown its hat into the ring with the announcement to fits own long-anticipated Disney+ service.
To be fair, the Disney+ service has been on the horizon for some time, with fairly solid news that it was coming even before we knew anything concrete about Apple’s plans. Disney announced last summer that it would be ending its content distribution deal with Netflix, and then acquired 21st Century Fox later in the year, suggesting that it was rapidly ramping up its ambitions for its own streaming service, which it had formally announced about a month earlier as coming in late 2019.
With the week’s announcement, however, we have three more important details: the service will be priced at $6.99/month, it’s launching in November, and it will include huge array of already-popular content ranging from Disney’s own titles, to Star Wars, to The Simpsons.
However, while in some ways, Disney’s service stands to be in direct competition with Apple’s fledgling TV+, we think it’s fair to say that the two services may end up being much more complimentary than competitive. In fact, in an era that’s been dominated by Netflix — a service which tries so hard to be everything to everyone that it lacks any real identity of its own — services like Apple TV+ and Disney+ are strongly established brands that will each carve out their own niches.
Disney CEO Bob Iger also seems to feel this way, telling Bloomberg that he doesn’t see his company’s new streaming service as being a direct competitor to Apple, and doesn’t believe that it will be necessary to step down from his position on Apple’s Board of Directors. In fact, Iger noted that new Disney+ app will be available on the Apple TV, although that will only be one of several platforms that they company plans to be working with. Reports earlier this year suggested that Disney might have a tighter role in Apple’s new streaming services, but that was also based on speculation that Apple would be releasing its own bundle of premium channel providers.
Instead, what actually materialized is Apple Channels, a service that simply provides a storefront and unified subscription model for a wide variety of services such as HBO, CBS, and Showcase. It’s unclear whether Disney+ will be part of Apple Channels, or whether it will simply be releasing its own standalone tvOS app like Netflix and Hulu already have.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt also once sat on Apple’s Board of Directors, famously resigning when the two companies began competing directly in the iPhone and Android space. However, Iger’s situation is somewhat different. For one thing, Apple TV+, while an important new entry for Apple, is far from its core business right now, and while Iger notes that he has been careful to recuse himself at any Apple board meetings where the topic has come up, he’s also said it really hasn’t happened all that often, because the service is “relatively small and nascent.” That said, Iger doesn’t rule out the possibility that this could change in the future, and notes that he’s “in constant discussion about it” and “mindful of [his] fiduciary responsibility to Apple shareholders.”
However, unlike directly competing hardware devices, streaming services are not a zero-sum game. Many users are likely to subscribe to multiple services, especially when those services offer significantly different content from each other. There’s no evidence at this point that Disney+ and Apple TV+ will have any overlap that would cause users to directly pick one over the other; in the end, it’s whether the services can produce compelling content on their own that will be far more important than what rival services are offering.