Another day, another new player to the streaming game. This time it’s Disney+ entering the fray, with the service making its Tuesday debut to great acclaim, save for a few logistical errors we’ll dig into in a moment.
It was a stark departure from the launch of Apple TV+ just two weeks prior, wherein the tech giant’s foray into both streaming and original programming registered more as a blip on the radar, but there’s reason enough for that. While Apple was holding a grand opening for its small shop of (billion-dollar) wares, Disney was throwing open the doors of a massive warehouse club, where your annual subscription would not only allow you access to new content but also Disney’s beloved library, with the ability to transport you back to a carefree past when Hayley Mills (or Hilary Duff) was a star and animated movies could be as racist as they pleased.
In reality, Disney TV+ is a near-perfect money-making machine with its clean design and straightforward player — there’s no one wondering if they need a separate device to use this streaming service. And while the House of Mouse certainly has original offerings, most of those rely heavily on previously established IP, from “Toy Story 4” breakout star vehicle “Forky Asks A Question” to “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” — not to mention the streaming service’s marquee offering, Star Wars series “The Mandalorian,” which manages to be serviceably entertaining to a general audience, but more importantly, creates dozens of new merchandising opportunities just in time for the holidays.
Disney is so good at what they do, it’s easy to get sucked into any number of conspiracy theories inspired by their seemingly effortless success. For instance, many subscribers had issues with the service, with streaming errors and app failures, among just a few of the bugs plaguing the system. In response to the complaints, Disney said they were pleased by the reception of consumers and that the problems came from the company underestimating demand for its product.
Something about that “Aw, shucks” modesty smacks of a false front. What if Disney gambled and intentionally fumbled their roll-out to project an average of demand far-outstripping what they possibly could have prepared for? It’s Disney. It isn’t surprised by anything, give or take a John Lasseter.
And don’t get me started on how episodes of “The Mandalorian” just happen to be the perfect length (around 40 minutes) to ship over to air in an hour-slot on ABC. Don’t be surprised to see that special feature toward the end of the fourth quarter if Big Mouse is looking to goose subscriber numbers.
But that’s just fantasy. The reality is that Disney is riding high on a wave of nostalgia porn that consumers can’t get enough of. It leans hard on viewers’ affection for the things they loved in childhood and the franchises they can’t get enough of today and de-emphasizes breaking out of its hermetically-sealed box to create television and film with true artistic vision. Say what you will about Apple TV+, it has gone all-in on original programming.
Disney TV+ is easy to love. It’s also easy to hate. And easy to hate to love. On this week’s edition of IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens,” TV Awards Editor Libby Hill, TV Deputy Editor Ben Travers, and Creative Producer Leo Garcia explore all their complicated feelings about the streaming service and where Disney goes from here. Also, the crew discusses the company’s decision to air four FX original series exclusively on Hulu, Libby reports back from the Apple TV+ awards season kickoff party, and Ben muses over Netflix’s decision to drop the latest season of “The Crown” on Sunday, instead of Friday.
“Millions of Screens” is available on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can subscribe here or via RSS. Share your feedback with the crew on Twitter or sound off in the comments. Review the show on iTunes and be sure to let us know if you’d like to hear the gang address specific issues in upcoming editions of “Millions of Screens.” Check out the rest of IndieWire’s podcasts on iTunes right here.
This episode of “Millions of Screens” was produced by Leonardo Adrian Garcia.