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Week In Review: Disney Plus Closes In On The 100 Million Mark, CBS Has A Deal For You

1. Disney Plus Closes In On The 100 Million Mark

During their latest earnings call, Disney announced that they were up to 94.9 million subscribers, a good-sized jump from the 86 million they had just two months ago.

This is not unexpected, at least not in my book, as Disney has many, many things going for it: a very strong brand image, excellent name recognition, a built-in audience of households with young children and, most important, a decent number of well-done original series.

Meaning everyone has heard of Disney, knows the types of programming they can expect to find there, understands why that sort of programming is unique to Disney, knows that if you have children under the age of six you are going to need Disney+ to keep your sanity and that Disney has The Mandalorian and other originals that everyone seems to like.

Peacock, OTOH….

When the Olympics were postponed and Peacock essentially launched as a FAST this summer, I thought it was a smart move, as it would allow them to capture email addresses and upsell everyone once they started running their original programming. 

Only here it is, mid-February and that original programming is largely still MIA and Peacock only has 11.3 million “monthly active ad-supported accounts” (according to The Information, anyway. Comcast disputes those numbers as being “inaccurate and low.”) Which, giving Peacock the benefit of the doubt, still isn’t saying much when your competition is closing in on 100 million.

What it does do, however, is highlight the fact that many of the Flixes are relatively indistinguishable from each other right now: with the exception of DIscovery+ and Disney+, they are all home to well made original dramas and sitcoms with a markedly similar sensibility, aimed at a more intelligent and affluent audience than what’s available on linear network TV. 

In fact, the main differentiator right now seems to be who has reruns of The Office versus reruns of Friends

This is understandable in that this intelligent and upscale audience is exactly who is watching streaming TV right now. It has a direct parallel in the early days of television, too, when the only people who could afford TV sets were wealthier and more educated and thus you had programming like Playhouse 90 on CBS and The Philco Television Playhouse on NBC, where top American playwrights would premier notable dramas like Judgement At Nuremberg and Marty

But just as TV changed in the early 60s as set prices dropped and the medium became more democratized, streaming will change too as more households become streaming only. 

It will be up to the various Flixes to determine what their ultimate identities will be and what sort of programming they will have.

While the aforementioned Information piece speculates on a Warner-NBCU merger, my suspicion is that it’s a plant to scare people at both companies into being more proactive about pushing their respective Flixes forward and figuring out why anyone would want to pay money to watch them.

We’ll know soon enough.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re Disney, just keep doing what you’re doing. International rollout is going to be key this year and here again you have a huge leg up because of the brand’s global name recognition and the universal appeal of your franchise content. Just don’t make Netflix and Amazon’s mistake of overcharging in developing markets. (Pro Tip: The Hotstar India service you inherited from Sky is a great example of how to approach those markets correctly.)

If you’re one of the other Flixes, it’s time to figure out how you are going to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack, which is going to be largely around programming, though a UX trick or two might not be a bad idea either.

2. CBS Has A Deal For You

It looks like CBS is making up for those confusing Super Bowl ads (fortunately, some brand manager convinced them to have Patrick Stewart say “it’s a streaming TV service” at the end, thus ending viewer confusion as to why Beavis, Dora and Snookie were all climbing a mountain together.) 

As penance, they’re offering a mammoth discount on Paramount+ if you sign up for the entire year: $30 for ad-supported Paramount+ and $50 for ad-free. (That’s $2.50 or $4.17 per month, depending on how you slice it.)

Why It Matters

If you know your kid is a big Dora fan or if $4 a month sounds like a fine price to pay to revisit with Beavis and Butt Head, and you don’t mind lump sum payments, then this is a very good deal.

More than that though, it’s yet another sign that The Great Rebundling is upon us.

Rebundling makes sense because in most instances, it’s a win all around.

Consumers get lower prices and an easier way to keep track of what services they’re subscribing to.

Ad-supported Flixes get a stable audience to sell ads against while ad-free Flixes get stable numbers to prop up their stock prices and both types of Flix get stable numbers to try and lure top rank talent with.

MVPDs and other broadband providers get stickiness, as do device manufacturers and smart TV OEMs, all of whom are likely to be the folks offering the bundles in The Great Rebundling.

The only asterisk I’d place here is that CBS is offering this up as a pay-up-front offer, but it’s likely that The Great Rebundling will be priced on a monthly basis. 

Part of that is sales psychology—$2.50/month sounds better than $30/year, and is a lot easier for most consumers to swallow, and part of that is monthly fees are how most services are sold, MVPD broadband in particular, and so tying someone to a one or two year contract while billing them monthly just makes sense.

What You Need To Do About It

If you think you might watch something on Paramount+ even just once a month, jump on that deal, it’s a sweet offer.

If you’re one of the Flixes and you’re struggling to attract users, letting Charter or FIOS (or Roku or Samsung) bundle your service together with a few others, plus broadband and maybe something like Spotify for a set fee each month should be a good way to expand your user base while you’re waiting for on of your originals to catch fire.

If you’re a programmer, a niche programmer in particular, you might want to consider one of the newer breed of bundlers like the LA-based start-up Paket, where you’re not giving up data or dollars to get your app in front of consumers.