Earlier on Tuesday, Disney announced it’s breaking up with Netflix.
The Mouse House said it plans to launch a streaming service that will be the “exclusive home” for its movies starting in 2019. Right now, Netflix has the rights to stream Disney’s movies, but that deal is going away.
Netflix investors didn’t love the news. The company’s stock was down as much as 3% in after-hours trading.
Speaking as a consumer, and as one of those dastardly millennial cord-cutters, I don’t love the news either.
I mean, let’s be real here. Disney owns Pixar, Star Wars, the Muppets, and Marvel. If it owned the rights to pizza, karaoke, and my beloved toy poodle, Disney would control pretty much everything I love. So, I’m one of its target customers; I’ll probably be first in line to subscribe to this service. (Disney CEO Bob Iger said some Marvel and Star Wars stuff, at least, might stay on Netflix, so there’s that.)
But for me that prospect bodes more irritation than joy — and likely for you too. Between me and my partner, my house is hooked up with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. The beauty of these services is that they act as aggregators — they collect and stream a wide range of movies and TV shows from different studios, networks and creators. I don’t have to know which Hollywood studio created which show or what network airs them. I just fire up one of those apps and watch what I want.
Recently, though, there’s been trouble in paradise.
For example, if I want to watch new episodes of “The Flash” or “Jane the Virgin” — two of the shows I love — I now have to use the CW network’s app rather than Hulu’s. The CW recently claimed exclusive rights to stream those shows, taking them off Hulu. That’s frustrating, because Hulu is a great app with a slick design, while the CW app was clearly designed by committee and is no fun to use whatsoever.
The Cartoon Network has its own app. So do FX, CBS, and plenty of other networks. All those networks limit access to at least some of their shows to their own apps. Many also require users to have a cable subscription (or at least a “borrowed” login and password).
What this means is there’s an increasingly confusing galaxy of apps you have to use and navigate if you want to keep up with your favourite shows. And the Disney-Netflix break-up means we’ll all have one more app we’ll have to use.
It’s certainly within the rights of each studio or network to gate off their content. But the moves remind me of the thousand tiny frustrations of the cable tv service the streaming apps are supposed to be replacing. All I want to do is load up my two or three key services and watch my movies and TV shows. Now, though, I have to remember which app is for what show and remind myself to check it. Channel-surfing is out and app-surfing is in.
In the meanwhile, all of this throws some light on why Netflix would make a comic book company its first-ever acquisition. With Disney yanking the rug out — and potentially taking with its Marvel movies and shows with it — Netflix must be scrambling to find new, independent intellectual property and its own band of superheroes to bolster its own service.
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