Disney is getting a slight head start on Apple with the announcement of its first global launches and pricing for its new and upcoming Disney+ streaming video subscription service, and it also appears that it will be ready to play nice with Apple’s hardware and software ecosystem right out of the gate.
According to The Verge, the service is set to launch in the U.S. on November 12th and will be priced at $6.99/month (or $69.99/year), and it will also be available in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand on that same date.
Most significantly for Apple fans, however, Disney has also confirmed that the Disney+ service will be available to be streamed on Apple TV devices running tvOS, along with Apple’s iPad and iPhone devices, and a collection of Android and Roku devices, plus the PS4 and Xbox One. Amazon’s devices are conspicuously absent from this list, however.
In-App Subscriptions and the TV app
Disney has also said that in addition to providing the Disney+ app for iOS and tvOS, it will be offering the subscription service through in-app subscriptions — meaning it’s happy to give Apple the usual cut of the revenue in exchange for hopefully attracting more subscribers — and it will integrate its content with Apple’s “TV” app so that users will be able to browse and search content from Apple’s unified interface, and current content should appear in the “Watch Next” queue.
Unfortunately, that’s about as far as Disney (and Apple) are willing to go with the integration at this point. Disney has said that it has “nothing to announce” regarding any “channel” marketplaces, which includes not only Apple TV Channels but also services like Amazon Prime. In other words, this means that while you’ll be able to find Disney+ content in the TV app, you’ll still be launched over to the Disney+ app to actually watch it.
Note that Disney hasn’t ruled out joining up with Apple TV Channels in the future — it’s simply said that it has nothing to announce yet regarding such integration. If Disney were to add Disney+ as an Apple TV Channel, it would be a much nicer convenience for Apple users, since content would be streamed natively inside the TV app, users could sign up directly without leaving the app, and a single subscription could be shared with the whole family. However, there may also be more groundwork to be laid between the two companies to make this happen, since Apple TV Channels content is streamed directly via Apple’s own servers.
That said, it does look like the Disney+ app will offer some of the benefits of Apple Channels directly, such as offline downloads and 4K HDR support. It’s unclear right now if Disney+ will provide any kind of family plan; unlike Apple TV Channels, in-app subscriptions are not shared among members of the same iCloud Family Sharing group.
Disney+ vs Apple TV+
Despite a longstanding friendly relationship between the two companies — Steve Jobs was Disney’s largest single shareholder since Walt Disney himself, and served on the company’s Board of Directors until his death in 2011 and current Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger has been a member of Apple’s Board of Directors since late 2011 — it does seem that the two are now going to be competing at least somewhat on the same turf, although one could argue that there’s still more than enough room for the two streaming services that are likely more complementary than competitive.
For example, Apple TV+ at this point is going to be focused solely on original content produced by Apple, making it the only major streaming service that has no other library of third-party content to offer. By contrast, while Disney+ will surely be producing some of its own original content exclusively for the service — this is Disney after all — we expect its biggest selling point for users won’t be the new original content nearly as much as the huge existing library of past original content from Disney and all of its properties such as Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars.
While it’s true that there’s always a risk of customers suffering from “subscription fatigue” due to too many streaming services, we think Apple’s insistence on standing solely on the merits of its own original content is going to make it stand out from the pack as a compelling service for its own sake, but positioning itself as more of an “add-on” service to the others.