Disney+ is removing content but not the way that Netflix does

Disney+ is removing content but not the way that Netflix does
Disney+ is certainly off to a great start. Back in November, 10 million subscribers signed up in the first 24 hours although some of those were Verizon customers taking advantage of a free year of service. Others might have signed up for a free seven-day trial that everyone gets to use one time to try the service. The video streaming app might not have as wide a range of content as Netflix, but with titles from the Disney Channel, Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm (including Star Wars) and National Geographic, there is something for everyone.

Just two weeks after its debut on Disney+, The Mandalorian was the most-watched television series in the U.S. on any platform. The episodic series is part of the Star Wars universe and has already had a breakout "star" in Baby Yoda. The series is so important to the service that some Disney+ subscribers have already let their monthly subscription lapse  now that the first season of The Mandalorian has ended. Unlike Netflix, Disney drops its new episodes weekly instead of all at once, and those departing Disney+ say that they will return in the fall when the show's second season is expected to premiere. By leaving Disney+ and returning for The Mandalorian's next season, these consumers are saving $6.99 for each month they wait on the sideline.

Disney+ drops some movies without warning subscribers

Fans of The Mandalorian aren't the only "things" that are leaving Disney+. According to Polygon (via The Verge), several movie titles have disappeared from the app. Films such as Home Alone, Home Alone 2, The Sandlot, Dr. Dolittle, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ended their run on Disney+ once the calendar hit 2020. Unlike Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streamers, Disney removed these movies without making any announcement; the other services provide their subscribers with an advanced warning to give them one last shot at watching a particular film or series before it is removed.

Disney has been promoting new additions to Disney+ and has never hinted that non-classic content would stay on the service forever. As for classic Disney movies, a spokesman said last year that "there will not be a ‘rotating slate’ of licensed movies each month […] With Disney Plus, beloved classics from the Disney vault will now stream in a permanent home, including Snow Whiteand the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King — the entire 13-film Signature Collection — all available on day one."

Polygon's sources say that legacy deals made before the development of the streaming site is the reason for the departure of non-classic titles. Once those deals are completed, the movies removed could return to Disney+ permanently. For example, one of the top movies on Disney+ is Marvel's Black Panther. In 2026, streaming rights for the film revert back to Netflix where the movie was found before the launch of Disney's video streamer. Ironically, Disney does own all of the content on Disney+ even though it must abide by previously agreed to contracts with other streamers.

There remains the possibility that some deals could be renegotiated. That's how Disney was able to wrest away Star Wars: The Force Awakens from Starz. As it is, besides Black Panther, Netflix is expected to have Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Coco and some other films back in its inventory by 2026. Sure, that seems so far away but before you know it, it will be time for Disney to jettison those titles.

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Speaking of Netflix, as of last month one million of the latter's subscribers were "stolen" away by Disney+ according to brokerage firm Cowen & Co. And while that might not have Netflix executives quaking in their shoes, a survey conducted by Rosenblatt Securities analyst Bernie McTernan found that 29% of Disney+ subscribers dropped a rival streaming service to join Disney's offering; 9% specifically left Netflix. Disney's goal is to hit 60 million to 90 million paying customers worldwide by the end of its fiscal year 2024. At last count, Netflix had 158.3 million global subscribers.

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