Netflix vs Disney: Who's Winning the Video Streaming War?
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Netflix vs Disney: Who’s Winning the Streaming War?

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Netflix subscribers versus Disney

Netflix vs Disney: Who’s Winning the Streaming War?

Netflix is well-known as one of the pioneers of mass-market video streaming. The service has become so ubiquitous that the word “Netflix” is now synonymous with watching a movie or television show.

But, while it’s one of the most recognized streaming platforms in the world, has it been able to maintain its dominant position in the industry now that more competitors have entered the fray?

This graphic by Truman Du shows how Disney’s streaming empire (Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+) has quickly gained subscribers and is giving Netflix a run for its money.

Netflix: The Beginning

Founded in 1997, Netflix started out as mail-order DVD rental company. One of the co-founders Reed Hastings told Fortune Magazine that he got the idea for Netflix after he was charged a $40 late fee for a VHS he’d rented out.

By 2007, Netflix had evolved from a relatively modest DVD rental company into a ground-breaking subscription-based streaming service. While there were a few other streaming platforms at the time, Netflix had a significant first mover’s advantage, operating on a subscription model and acquiring a wide pool of distribution rights from different studios.

This allowed the company to grow rapidly and establish itself as an industry leader. From 2007 to 2022, Netflix’s subscriber base grew from 7 million to 221 million, nearly 3,000%.

When Did Disney Enter the Scene?

The Walt Disney Company got involved in the streaming industry in 2009 when it first joined Hulu as a minor stakeholder, but became more directly invested in 2016 when it bought a 33% stake in BAMTECH Media, a video streaming technology company.

Disney eventually bought a majority stake in BAMTECH Media and in 2018, the company rebranded to Disney Streaming Services. In addition to launching Disney+ and ESPN+, Disney’s acquisition of 21 Century Fox gave the company a majority stake in other streaming platforms including Hulu and Star+.

While Disney arrived much later on the scene compared to Netflix, it didn’t take long for Disney’s platforms to gain traction. And as of Q2 2022, Disney’s streaming empire (Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+) has more combined subscribers than Netflix, and are gaining at a rapid pace.

Netflix

PlatformSubscribers (Q2 2022)% Growth (y-o-y)
Netflix220.7 million5.5%
Netflix Total220.7 million5.5%

Disney

PlatformSubscribers (Q2 2022)% Growth (y-o-y)
Disney+152.1 million31.1%
Hulu46.2 million7.9%
ESPN22.8 million53.0%
Disney Total221.1 million27.3%

Other streaming services like HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video also continue to pick up steam, which begs the question: has the Netflix empire started to tumble?

Recent Trouble With Netflix

In April 2022, Netflix shared its Q1 results which showed a loss of 200,000 subscribers. Though barely a fraction of its 200+ million subscribers, it was Netflix’s first drop in subscribers in over 10 years.

This sent the company’s share price plummeting below $200, the lowest since 2017. As October 10, 2022, its share price still sits at $230, over 30% down from before the Q1 announcement in April 2022.

But change for the company is on the horizon. Netflix has announced that it plans to launch a cheaper, ad-supported service in November—something that other streaming platforms like Peacock and Paramount+ have already been offering customers for a few years.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Infographic: 11 Tech Trends to Watch in 2023

This infographic highlights eleven exciting areas within the world of technology worth keeping an eye on in 2023.

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11 Tech Trends

Infographic: 11 Tech Trends to Watch in 2023

It can be tough to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation.

Each new year delivers the full spectrum of progress from game-changing breakthroughs to incremental advancements in a wide variety of fields.

In a noisy media landscape fueled by hype and speculation, it can be tough to know where true value is being created. The infographic above, which draws from CB Insights’ recent report on 11 Tech Trends To Watch Closely in 2023, helps narrow down some areas of focus:

  1. Immortality-as-a-service
  2. The secret invasion of super apps
  3. Fintech’s rapid regeneration
  4. Bots in the house
  5. Virtual power plants
  6. Healthcare’s invisibility trick
  7. Smell goes digital
  8. Femtech turns to menopause
  9. The bio-based materials boom
  10. India’s tech ascent
  11. Regenerative agtech takes root

The report draws information from earnings transcripts, media mentions, investment activity, patents, and more to arrive at the trends listed.

We’ll examine three of these trends below in a bit more detail.

Setting the Stage: Clash of the Super Apps

The concept of a super app⁠—an all-in-one smartphone application that integrates a wide range of services⁠—is far from new. In fact, for years now, WeChat has been the go-to app for many Chinese citizens to chat, order services, pay bills, and more.

A natural question comes to mind: why doesn’t an app like that exist in Western countries yet? Well, there are a couple of key reasons:

  1. Consumers and regulators alike are wary of providers holding so much personal information and power. In China, WeChat actually had government support, integrating public services into the app. As well, expectations of personal privacy are completely different in China than in Western countries
  2. Unlike China, which rapidly adopted digital payments, North America and Europe had preexisting near-ubiquitous financial networks in place. Super apps were a game changer for millions of unbanked consumers in China and beyond.

The situation is changing rapidly though, and 2023 could be the year that the foundations are laid for a clash of various Big Tech incarnations of the super app.

In late 2022, Microsoft was rumored to be building a super app using Bing as the foundation, and recent investment into ChatGPT adds fuel to that fire. Even Elon Musk hinted at his ambitions to turn Twitter into a one-stop-shop for just about everything.

There are still significant barriers to bundling a plethora of services into a single app, but that isn’t stopping companies from racing to be the one to do it. To the victor go the spoils.

The Resiliency of Life Extension

The concepts of immortality and age reversal have been a preoccupation of mankind since the dawn of time, so it stands to reason that technology that promises extra lifespan and quality of life continues to be compelling for individuals and investors alike.

Players in this space can approach life extension and anti-aging from a number of different angles, from supplements to tinkering at the cellular level.

Two high-profile examples in this space are Calico, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, and the Jeff Bezos-backed Altos Labs. Other billionaires have expressed an interest in life extension as well, including Peter Thiel, who has definitive views on mortality.

I believe if we could enable people to live forever, we should do that. […] I think it is against human nature not to fight death. – Peter Thiel

In 2023, look for more investment and news from startups focused on gene therapy, genome analysis, regenerative medicine, or “longevity in a pill”.

Beyond Plastic: The Bio-Based Materials Boom

Public pressure is mounting for producers of consumer goods to change the way they manufacture their products.

The good news is that many of the largest producers of consumer packaged goods and apparel have some kind of plan in place to use more post-consumer recycled plastic in their products. The bad news is that not enough plastic is recycled globally for companies to source enough material to produce their products more sustainably. As a result, many companies are exploring the option of ditching plastic entirely.

For example, materials derived from seaweed are an active area of innovation right now. Mushrooms and algae are also commonly-used materials from nature that are being used to create biodegradable products. In one particularly interesting example, a company called MycoWorks recently began working with GM Ventures to explore the use of mycelium-based leather alternatives in GM’s vehicles.

While researchers and companies are just scratching the surface of what’s possible, consumers are likely to see more tangible examples of bio-based materials popping up in stores. After all, brands will be very eager to talk about their increasingly plastic-free product lines.

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