Netflix, AppleTV+, Disney+: Deciphering the Streaming Wars

As AppleTV+ and Disney+ join the fray, check in on the ratings, impressions, and awards the three most-influential streaming services are garnering.

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Need to Know

  • Disney+ earned 10 million subscribers on its first day and was Google’s top trending search term in 2019.
  • Apple TV+ collected 1.1 million subscribers during its launch week compared to Disney+’s 15 million.
  • Disney+ currently sits at over 25 million subscribers in the US alone, while AppleTV+ has over 3 million.
  • Netflix is standing to lose subscribers with the arrival of Disney+ and AppleTV+, as well as HBO Max, Peacock, and Quibi which are arriving within the next year.
  • Disney+ original series The Mandalorian beat out Netflix series Stranger Things as the most in-demand show ever.

Analysis

The streaming wars have commenced. The competitors? Netflix starring as the industry-dominating Goliath, Disney+ as the favorite family-friendly up-and-comer, AppleTV+ as the award-laden storyline tech champion, and the rest to come in 2020. 

Statistics about streaming services are incredibly hard to come by—the companies themselves release very limited numbers, so the public is forced to rely on third-party analytics companies such as Parrot Analytics, ListenNow, Nielsen, and others. The networks often regularly dispute their analyses. 

Netflix holds the largest market share with 158 million subscribers, $18.8 billion in revenue, and hits like Stranger Things, which analytics companies have named the most popular show in streaming. However, with the release of TV network-specific services next year, Netflix is losing some of its biggest syndicated TV series like Friends and The Office. Research firm Nielsen says that Friends was the second most-watched show on Netflix, so it must hurt to see it go. 

Analysts have also mentioned that Disney+ offers a challenge with its light viewing content, especially considering from the get-go it introduced more than 7,500 episodes of TV and more than 500 movies. Within the year, Disney+ is slated to run 45 original series and aims to attract 60-90 million subscribers by 2024. If they keep providing social-media-friendly content like The Mandalorian’s baby Yoda, (which shoved Netflix’s Stranger Things out of first place as the most in-demand show within its’ first week) that estimate may fall on the conservative side.

The question then becomes, “how many streaming services will one consumer sign up and pay for?”

It’s too early to tell whether Netflix will take a sincere hit to subscriber numbers or revenue, and although expected, executives don’t seem fully concerned. In an October 16 letter to shareholders, the company wrote, “Many are focused on the ‘streaming wars,’ but we’ve been competing with streamers (Amazon, YouTube, Hulu) as well as linear TV for over a decade.”

A recent analyst report found that Netflix lost 1.1 million viewers in November alone when Disney+ rolled out, but it’s impossible to truly gauge if that number is accurate.

Apple TV+ launched November 1st, a full two weeks before Disney+, but it barely garnered the same attention or applause. It’s biggest hit, See, with Jason Momoa, generated 40 million “demand expressions”* according to Parrot Analytics, compared to the 140 million at the height of Disney+’s The Mandalorian. The one area where Apple TV+ shows are overachieving is in the award arena: The Morning Show, with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, was nominated for three Golden Globes and three Screen Actors Guild nominations, while Disney+ sits empty-handed for now. 

Creating compelling series is expensive work. In 2016, critics balked at the $13 million pricetag-per-episode of Netflix’s The Crown. Now, The Mandalorian and The Morning Show both sit above $15 million per episode, and Disney+’s coming-soon Marvel series is reported to top $25 million per episode. Don’t even mention Amazon Prime’s $500 million Lord of the Rings prequel series.

A good snapshot of the current state of the streaming war is the network’s highest-rated shows. Disney+’ The Mandalorian beat out Netflix’ Stranger Things 21-week reign as the most in-demand show within its first two weeks. This is even more impressive when considering that almost every title in the top 10 most in-demand shows gained at least 15% more audience TV demand that week.

The only exception? Netflix’s Stranger Things, which dropped 20%. 

It’s important to pay attention to who’s winning and how, not just on a market analysis level, but on a sociocultural one. The networks that have more of our attention, have the most control over the messaging, as well.

*Demand expressions are a unique measurement by Parrot Analytics that is compounded from tracking video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, fan and critic rating platforms, and other consumer demand sources to create a composite of viewership and growth. Demand expressions do not represent viewership statistics. 

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