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Why Disney+ is the only service that can rival Netflix

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Disney Plus says it hit more than 10 million sign-ups on its first day of launch, far exceeding expectations. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Disney+ has been available since Nov. 12, and in addition to accumulating 10 million subscribers in its first day, the service's first big original show, "The Mandalorian," is already garnering positive reviews.

I was skeptical of Disney+ (DIS) at first. But after digging through the service's immense catalogue, I realized that at this point, the streaming wars will come down to a two-horse race between Disney and Netflix thanks to their relatively low cost and huge libraries.

The new Disney+ service costs just $6.99, while Netflix (NFLX) is only $8.99 for the cheapest plan — that’s compared to $14.99 for HBO’s (T) new streaming service and $11.99 for ad-free Hulu. Apple TV+ (AAPL) is just $4.99 per month but has an extremely limited library.

For streaming services a low price means nothing without a solid content library, and of the group, Disney and Netflix have the market cornered. Hulu gives you access to a number of new network shows, and has a handful of well-regarded originals including "The Handmaid's Tale," and Amazon has seen success with "The Boys," but neither is as large as Netflix.

Apple TV+ is easily the least expensive streaming option, but Hulu and Disney aren't far behind. (Image: David Foster)

According to eMarketer, Netflix captures 87% of the streaming capable homes with Amazon reaching 52.9%, and Hulu getting 41.5%. Disney+, however, could collect even more than Amazon or Hulu thanks to its huge volume of well-known franchises. (Though none of the streaming services release the exact number of TV shows and movies available to stream.)

Disney+'s catalogue is massive and full of deep cuts

When Disney+ was first announced, people focused on the ability to stream "Star Wars," Marvel movies, and "The Simpsons," in addition to the dizzying array of Disney Classics movies. But the service has so much more than that. 

Not only are there a huge number of Disney Channel shows and movies, but there’s also an incredible amount of content that’s sure to stoke feelings of nostalgia for millennials, such as "Boy Meets World," something I watched way too much during my first weekend with the service.

In fact, nostalgia is certain to play a key role in keeping users on Disney+. Shows like the "X-Men" series from the ‘90s, "Gargoyles," and others will give older subscribers plenty of reasons to stick around.

Then there are the hundreds of movies, both new and old, available to stream. We're talking about everything from "Avengers: Endgame" to "The Sandlot" and "Escape to Witch Mountain."

Heck, my wife and I spent about a half hour simply scrolling through the movie and series lists, picking out the various offerings we wanted to go back and watch later. For $6.99 a month, it's easily worth the price of admission.

There's a lot missing

So I'm sold on Disney+, but there are still some things Disney needs to address.

First off, the company needs to add a tab that shows your recently watched movies or shows. And while I know there's a Watch List option, I don't want to have to add each show to the tab.

The selection of original content is incredibly slim at this point, too. There are just 13 offerings in the Originals tab, compared to Netflix, which has more originals than I care to count.

There's also the fact that shows like "The Mandalorian" are released on a weekly basis, rather than all at once, like on Netflix. Sure, it spreads out the show over time, which will ensure users don't binge watch a show and drop their subscription when they're finished, but in the age of all-you-can-watch shows, having to wait for a new episode each week feels so old-school.

Then there's the biggest issue for Disney+, which is that it doesn't have much adult-oriented content. Netflix has plenty of shows and movies for the holder set, whether that be in the form of originals or third-party content.

You won't, for example, find horror or suspense movies or shows on Disney+. You're also not going to find any shows or movies with much violence. To get that, you'll need Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. And if you want the most content for your dollar, you'll end up opting for Netflix.

While Amazon and Hulu have been successful with their own original series' and libraries, Netflix and Disney are the services with both the name recognition and creative capabilities to make them the go-to streaming services to get and keep.

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at danielphowley@protonmail.com or dhowley@yahoofinance.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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