Time sure flies when you’re streaming 600-some episodes of “The Simpsons,” as evidenced by the fact that Disney+ has already been in existence for a full year, as of November 12, not unlike streaming competitor Apple TV+, which successfully completed its first year of operation at the beginning of the month.
But outside of a matter of timing, that’s largely where the similarities between Disney+ and Apple TV+ end. In reality, it’s also where similarities between Disney+ and an awful lot of its streaming competition ends.
By any metric, Disney+ has been an unmitigated success. The service has logged well over 73 million subscribers in its first 11 months of existence, with numbers easily surpassing those of any other streamer not named Netflix or offering two-day Prime shipping. What Disney+ fails to have in breadth of catalog as compared to Netflix or Prime Video or Hulu, it makes up for in ownership and specificity of content. If you want to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if you want to see Pixar films, if you want to see the Star Wars Extended Universe, there is one place you go, and you go there with the security of knowing the programming you crave has a next-to-nothing chance of jumping ship for a different provider.
Then there’s the matter of accolades. If Apple TV+ was perceived at launch as trying to break into the game via prestige programming and awards bait, then Disney+ was the populist player, knowing exactly what consumers wanted (Baby Yoda) and delivering (Baby Yoda) in spades.
And yet, when the 2020 Emmy Awards rolled around it was Disney+ that came out on top, buoyed almost entirely by the technical achievements of “The Mandalorian.” When nominations were announced, Disney+ scored 19 to the 18 nabbed by Apple TV+, but by the time every statue had been dispersed, the former had eight wins to its name, outshining the one earned by the latter.
Suddenly, Disney+ is not only popular, it’s also critically acclaimed. In a year where much of the entertainment industry is hemorrhaging money — to say nothing of the closure of Disney’s own theme parks, which came at the cost of billions of dollars — any type of victory is to be treasured. That said, how can the streamer hope to improve moving forward, and how do you measure success when things already seem to be going so well?
Which isn’t to say that Disney+ is perfect. No streamer can be perfect if it so heavily prioritizes investment into already owned intellectual property over the creation and cultivation of new and diverse storytelling avenues. If the swath of MCU TV shows in the works for the streamer fail to engage audiences in a meaningful way— which they have before, on both ABC and Netflix — does Disney+ double down, or are they ready to try and build new creative playgrounds to explore that weren’t created decades and decades ago by the same handful of people?
What’s the next stage when you’re already so far ahead of the game? We discuss the past, present, and future of Disney+ in this week’s episode of IndieWire’s TV podcast “Millions of Screens” as hosts Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers, Creative Producer Leo Garcia, and TV Awards Editor Libby Hill dissect the methods and madness happening inside the Mickey Mouse streamer and ask themselves what incentive the organization has to change if everything seems to be going so well.
Then, stay tuned as the crew explores the socialization of children’s entertainment — that is, the news that Apple TV+ has joined forces with PBS to make the Charlie Brown holiday specials available for free — in addition to the failed narrative constructs within the Charles Schultz classics. Plus, a discussion of news that Conan O’Brien would be taking his talents to HBO Max, making him the latest host to largely depart network television for wilder streaming waters.
In keeping with ongoing social distancing mandates, this week’s episode was again recorded from the comfort of everyone’s respective United States-area apartments and we’re again offering viewers a video version of the podcast, as embedded above.
“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.