Is Online Streaming Services War Brewing?

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By Vanessa Obioha

Maybe, maybe not. But what is certain is that Netflix clout over the online platform is being threatened by Walt Disney’s recent move to launch two streaming platforms. The entertainment company said it will end its movie distribution agreement with Netfllix and launch two Netflix-like streaming services — one for sports and another for films and television shows.

No doubt, Netflix expansion into streaming media in 2007 changed the media landscape, particularly consuming habits of audience. Traditional media found themselves grappling to keep their younger audiences glued to their electronic box instead of digital platforms. While some studios had no qualms licensing their television shows and movies to Netflix, others sought for a more aggressive approach to avoid the monotony. Studios like HBO, CBS, now have their streaming services including Amazon.com which is now setting its eyes on the television business.

Disney however has continued working with Netflix to distribute its content, with over $75 billion distribution deal until now. The decision to own its streaming services is said to be influenced by the weak fiscal third-quarter earnings. It reported a profit of $2.37 billion, down 9% from a year earlier.

The two platforms which will be a stand-alone subscription services will be developed by Bamtech, a streaming video company. For their services, Disney is paying $1.58 billion for a greater stake and will own 75% of Bamtech.
The ESPN service, which would be available next year, is expected to feature 10,000 sporting events annually, among them Major League Baseball games and NFL, while the Disney-branded film and TV offering, set to debut in 2019, would include original content developed by Walt Disney Studios. Disney-branded product would include exclusive films and TV shows. By doing so, it is making the competition very stiff for Netflix who still source content from Disney’s productions, especially popular franchises such as ‘Star Wars’ and ‘The Avengers’.
“The launch of our direct-to-consumer services marks an entirely new strategy for the company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands. No one is better positioned to lead the industry into this dynamic new era, and we’re accelerating our strategy to be at the forefront of this transformation,” Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said during a conference call with analysts.

Nonetheless, it is the not the first time Disney is experimenting with its own streaming services. In 2015, it launched Disney Life in the UK, priced at £9.99 a month. The service focused on kids’ and family content from Bambi and The Jungle Book to Pixar’s Toy Story franchise, as well as modern blockbusters such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series.But Netflix will not be the only one hit by Disney’s drastic move. Other Pay-TV operators operating in sporting services have always harboured the fear of a stand-alone ESPN service because it would give some consumers more reason to ditch their TV subscriptions. It is likely that other big studios may want to take Disney’s actions as well and have their own streaming services.
Despite this move, some of Disney’s franchises like Marvel will still be home to Netflix for now until it comes up with a concrete plan.

While more studios are gravitating towards the digital platforms, some are closing shops. Comedy streaming service Seeso revealed that it will be shutting down after less than two years in a Facebook Post. The service was launched in 2016 by Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, offering comedy originals, stand-up videos and library content for $3.99 a month. But despite material from popular comedy personalities including Dan Harmon and Jonah Ray, classic bits from Monty Python and next-day streams of NBC late-night programming, the subscription service never took off.