I’ve complained about Disney making stupid decisions before. Their need to allow marketing to shape the creation of Star Wars. The extremely poorly thoughtout plan behind Thanos’ motivation in Infinity War. Their nearly utter lack of risks under their own titles by way of live action remakes, sequels, and reboots. But now they are doing it again. Disney is not renewing their contract with Netflix and has decided only to release digital copies of their titles on their own video streaming service. This is beyond stupid. This is near suicidal.
So Late to the Party, It’s Over
There are three big streaming networks: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Netflix added their streaming line in 2007, Hulu launched their content in 2008, and Amazon Prime’s streaming service switched from only on demand to a subscription service in 2011. That means Netflix has been around for 12 years, Hulu for 11, and Prime for 8. All three hold titles from many different distribution companies and in the last few years, all three have been creative Emmy winning original titles as well. Netflix has 137.1 million subscribers (https://www.statista.com/statistics/250934/quarterly-number-of-netflix-streaming-subscribers-worldwide/), Hulu has 20 million subscribers (https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/hulu-statistics/), and Amazon Prime has about 100 million subscribers (https://variety.com/2018/digital/news/amazon-prime-100-million-subscribers-jeff-bezos-1202757832/). Netflix being the first explains why they have the most, and Amazon Prime offering other perks, such as free two day shipping and digital copies of a selection of books and music, explains why it is second. The only other real competition to these three is HBO Now, as HBO has been creating it’s own original content for decades before streaming subscriptions were a thing, and they regularly get recent blockbusters. This past year their relatively new online subscription service has hit over 5 million subscribers (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-01/hbo-s-channel-for-cord-cutters-surpasses-5-million-subscribers). This was actually a relatively natural progression for the channel, and other paid channel networks have followed suit with less success. The point is that the most successful streaming services offer both original content and multiple distribution companies’ titles and have been around for nearly ten years or have a sweet package that includes other benefits. The streaming wars haven’t just begun. They’re long over. Only something with extremely competitive benefits can even get a foot in the door. Another Amazon Prime. I could see Apple successfully doing this if they were willing branch off of their own tech products (i.e. all smart TVs and Windows computers) and converted to a subscription service, like their Apple Music. Disney’s package is not competitive. My guess is that it’s going to be priced too high because Disney thinks they are worth more than they are.
Big Dumb Animal
Disney is one of a handful of major media corporations. Nearly all of them are know for doing stupid things on a regular basis. Universal tried making their dumb dark universe. Warner Bros is failing spectacularly at creating a DCCU. Fox just makes bad movies because they trust Ridley Scott far too much. Other endeavors don’t do so well either. The news sections of the major media corporations are lackluster as almost all of them use rhetorical techniques and spotlighting techniques to incite fear and manipulate public opinion to political sides or to raise their own ratings. They often make business decisions that would kill smaller companies, such as cancelling Emmy winning TV shows, not marketing movies that need it and over-marketing those that don’t, designing creative titles by committee, watering down acquired IPs for mass markets, performing unethical and illegal acts that obstruct a criminal investigation simply to keep a news story going, one arm of the company suing another arm of that same company, not backing video streaming when it first came out. These big media corporations are stupid. They are frankly too big not to be stupid. They aren’t innovators. They aren’t trail-blazers. They copy each other and they copy the innovators, thinking that they can “do it better”. They typically can’t. The problem is inspiration. They don’t have it. Maybe one day they did, years ago, but they don’t have it anymore. Now, they have demographic data, marketing teams, and financial optimization. These are not the things that create new ideas. These are the things that keep big businesses big and, they hope, bigger. Disney is just like any other major media corporation. Large, full of MBA buzzwords, and mostly empty-headed.
You Have Hulu?!
Case in point: Disney owns a controlling interest in Hulu, one of the three major video streaming services, and they want to launch a new, Disney-branded video streaming service that would be in . . . direct competition to . . . the one they already own with 20 million subscribers. Hmm. I don’t think it needs to be explained why that would be a dumb move. I could foresee Disney pushing a vote to close down Hulu, which is dumb, to cut this competition. Why would this be dumb? Well, Hulu is established, it’s built. All the investment that was needed to create Hulu has already been spent. Disney is now spending what has to be a comparable amount of money to build a Disney-branded video streaming service when they already have a pre-built video streaming service. Is it entirely theirs? No, part of it is owned by Comcast and AT&T, and the 30% that was owned by Fox is now Disney’s, which means Disney own 60%, a controlling interest, and thus a majority profit. They could rebrand Hulu if they wanted to (don’t do that), and after Hulu’s deal with Spotify, Hulu is even more attractive as a product then it used to be. Disney is not going to be able to compete with that. I seriously doubt that the new streaming service is even going to compare with the amount of content and the quality of the original content on Hulu. I got Hulu exclusively to see The Handmaid’s Tale, an award winning show. I doubt Disney’s channel with it’s branding tied specifically to the Disney name will have the kind of deep and dark content allowed on Hulu. And it’s just going to cost them so much money.
Disney has a lot of money. Of that, we can be sure. They bought Star Wars and the Lucas companies for billions of dollars. They acquired Marvel through similar means a few years before that. Recently, they purchased 20th Century Fox and all their IPs and subsidiaries. They have money. Frankly, they could stand to take a few hits in that department to make them beef up their quality. While Marvel is still doing well financially on the film front, the quality of writing has gone down dramatically since the Russo Brothers have replaced Joss Whedon. Star Wars fans have finally woken up to the idea that Disney Star Wars is the worst Star Wars–something I’ve been saying since Rogue One and knew after The Force Awakens. But hardcore Disney fans still drink the cool aid when it comes to these live action remakes and sequels. My hope is that this new video streaming service will be an absolute waste of money, much like the A Wrinkle in Time adaptation was. I can see Disney not investing enough to build a truly workable service, with a good customer service system, spending more money on marketing the service, and then over-charging for the whole thing. I can also foresee them pulling the whole “Disney Vault” bullshit and rotating old titles in and out of their own service arbitrarily, thus creating a false supply titles. What I’m saying is, I foresee an utter waste of money for both Disney and fans.
An End to the Defenders
It was a sad, sad time as each new day brought another notice of a Defenders cancellation. Were all the shows good? No, of course not. Luke Cage and Iron Fist were terrible, and the second season of Daredevil, much like the second Iron Man movie, was too focused on introducing new things into the mix as we had more of the Hand, Stick, Elektra, and the Punisher then we knew what to do with. But the quality of these shows overall were better than say Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. They covered deeper, darker subjects than other MCU titles. And now thanks to Disney being a jealous dick, we’re not getting any more of them. When Luke Cage and Iron Fist were cancelled, I was not shocked as I had just finished the second seasons of both and yee, gods, man. What the hell were they thinking? When an audience member literally says out loud “What the fuck?” upon the final scene of your show, that may be a sign that its time to hang it up. But Daredevil season three was great! And I can’t wait for the premier of season three of Jessica Jones or of season two of Punisher. Jessica Jones season two was still very awesome. And the first season of Punisher, while shockingly brutal, was freaking amazing! This is just a tragedy of TV that we won’t have anymore Charlie Cox Daredevil, Krysten Ritter Jessica Jones, or Jon Bernthal Punisher. Or will we? No, probably not. Disney isn’t smart enough to move it something like FX or Hulu, where something that dark would make sense, and with the new way of TV original content being separated by different video streaming services, it wouldn’t really make sense to have some seasons on Netflix, where the distribution rights lie for those seasons, and have new seasons on another service. So I don’t foresee a revival for any of these unless Disney can unjam their head from up that deep, dark cavern they’ve decided it belongs.
Speaking of IPs like the Defenders, Disney has been systematically watering down and killing their major IPs. Most of you will think I’m talking about Star Wars, and I totally am. Disney has managed to drive away the reason they purchased Star Wars in the first place. You know, the fans. It wasn’t just virtue signalling narratives, it was also poor narrative construction with uneven pacing, badly developed characters, marketing that over-saturated the market, and getting in bed with the worst game publisher in the world that resulted in a huge PR nightmare and loss of public trust, when they could have just used the publisher that came with the purchase from Lucas (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/star-wars-why-i-dont-like-it/). But Star Wars is not the only IP they have harmed in the last decade. What with their need to milk the shit out of their own titles, resulting in remakes, reboots, and sequels up the wazoo, Disney movies have gone down in quality, resulting in mostly boring live action remakes that aren’t as good as the originals (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/do-you-need-money-or-something-disney-reboot-remakes-and-sequels/). Then there is the sequels with Pixar. Luckily, Pixar still has some ideas, like Moana, but you know its going to get a less than stellar sequel. While I love The Incredibles and I’ve always wanted a sequel, when I watched the trailer, I got a bad feeling. Finding Dory was basically Finding Nemo, but with Dory and Nemo switched places, and a lot of having their cake and eating it to when it came to making fun of people who were different and suggesting that they are complete individuals deserving of our respect. The trailer for The Incredibles 2 just seems like The Incredibles only now instead of Bob running off to do superhero stuff while Helen stays home to take care of the kids and house, she’s running off to do superhero stuff while he stays home to take care of the kids and the house. It’s a problem. And really, they’re going to do a Toy Story 4? Isn’t that a bit much? Finally, the MCU. Their golden goose. Well, it was, before Joss Whedon decided he was done and they went all in on the Russo Brothers, who suck hard core. The main storyline of the MCU has become increasingly plot-hole filled with villains that have plans without any sense or structure to them and characters whose development is abused by main plot points. The stories are contrived for the purpose of creating drama. And I’m sick of it. While most audiences still like the MCU, the quality is fucking awful now. The only thing holding it all together are the great actors. I swear, it feels like the Russo brothers were asked to dismantle the MCU, because it is the only thing that makes sense. So yeah, Disney has flooded the market with horrible movies, and don’t even get me started on their TV channel! That’s been horrific for decades.
No Risks and Stupid Risks
I’ve said before that Disney was in a position to take risks. When I said that, I meant creatively, as in coming up with new IPs instead of remaking all their animated movies. I didn’t mean jump into the video streaming service market five years after it matters and after having acquired one of the big three. That isn’t a risk. That’s a jump off a cliff. It baffles me that they would not take real risks with their creative work, but do something that will in all likelihood fail as business venture. I know that these decisions are not made by the same person, that Disney is large corporation made up of a lot of people and subsidiaries, but it has a corporate culture of no creativity and cutting out the middle man. This new venture isn’t about innovation or customer support. It’s about making the most money they think they can. They see the profits that other video streaming services rake in and think they could have all that money by cutting out Netflix. But that’s potential profits, not real profits. They have no idea how much money they will actually make off their video streaming service. This is a stupid way of looking at things too because Netflix makes the money it does not because it has Disney titles, but because it has Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Sony, etc. titles and original content and no commercials. Disney is only one part of how they make their profits. They have an amazing contract with Warner Bros that allows for CW shows exclusively. And we all know how popular, if not good, those are. So for Disney to be looking possibly at Netflix profits and thinking, those could be our profits, is dumb, because they aren’t the only draw of a varied and long-standing video streaming service.
“Well, I’m Going to Cancel My Netflix Subscription”
Sure, the five million people who do this will leave “quite” a dent in Netflix’s profits. As if Netflix doesn’t have Stranger Things. Suuuuure. Netflix is gonna suffer sooooooo much. Netflix’s biggest competitor isn’t even Amazon Prime. It’s YouTube. Not even YouTube Red, Google’s attempt to get YouTube out of the red and into the black. Just regular old YouTube. But that’s because YouTube has content no one else has. No, not live TV or news clips. No, let’s plays, and gaming news and lists. The most watched videos on YouTube are related to gaming, something no other video service comes close to getting right. Twitch could eat their lunch in the viewership numbers if they weren’t just live streaming, as gaming news and lists and game walkthroughs are another huge draw, which are harder to do live. So when I hear the counter that people are going to leave Netflix for Disney, I scoff, because no other video streaming service competes on the same level. Prime looks like it does because of its numbers, but some Prime members aren’t there for the videos. They’re there for the two day shipping. Will Netflix take a hit over this? Yes, but it won’t be a company breaking hit.
In the End
I rag on Disney a lot, and despite that, they are not my least favorite media giant. That spot is firmly held by Sony. But Disney is a close second because they have so much, do so little creatively, and make dumb decisions. Because Disney owns so many major IPs, this upsets me. They have some of the best material, material that has huge followings built into them. It’s upsetting to see them gobble up more and more with the feeling that they are just going to waste all that potential and talent on half-assed projects, that they are going to end good ventures simply to get all the money in the world. They think their shit don’t stink. But it does. God, but it does. Is something like this going to take them down? Well, if EA is still around despite all they’ve done the last few years, I seriously doubt that this straw is the last straw for Disney. In fact, I see there numbers being high enough in the beginning at least for them to think this is a justified venture. They are also huge. They can absorb this quite easily if it is a loss. Will they learn a lesson if it fails? Most likely they won’t. Their vault BS has been working for them for decades. The problem is their size. They’ll stub their toe and just move on to the next dumb idea. Disney fans will continue to swallow the cool aid, and they will continue to make enough money to think they are untouchable. They’ll look for any answer that doesn’t hold them responsible for any failures, as they have in the past. And they’ll kept on doing what they’ve been doing. But now they own nearly everything of value. If they buy Warner Bros, we’re fucked. Because you know damn well, they’d end the Arrowverse in a heartbeat, despite its success and the world it has built. I’m just tired of Disney getting more and more and doing less and less of value with what they have. Aren’t you?