When streaming video services first appeared on the market, they were considered a blessing. Consumers quickly flocked to platforms such as Netflix or HBO Go, attracted by their affordable subscription plans, high quality content, and spot-on recommendation engines – all the things that were notoriously absent from cable TV. Combined with the “no commitments, cancel anytime” approach, the services were just what people needed to cut the cord.

First movers in streaming reaped the most benefits. Netflix, originally a DVD and Blu-Ray rental business, introduced its video streaming service in 2007. Only six years later, it premiered its first original show House of Cards – starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright – to the acclaim of critics and subscribers worldwide. Fast forward to 2019, and many of the best series today, including Orange Is the New BlackBloodline and Stranger Things, are also Netflix productions.

The competition carefully watched this impressive growth of Netflix and it was clear that the emergence of competing services was just around the corner. Industry giants apparently felt that someone was drinking their milkshake, and duly responded – Apple TV Plus and Disney+ launched on 1st and 12th November 2019 respectively, taking a lot of spotlight in the streaming realm.

Let’s see how they compare.

It’s getting crowded

The video streaming landscape is getting busy with all the new platform launches and exclusives. And it’s just the beginning – we have yet to witness what the other players have up their sleeves. Comcast’s ad-supported Peacock launches next year in April, and AT&T’s HBO Max premieres in May.

Choosing between the leading platforms is a mind-boggling puzzle of price, exclusives, video quality and number of concurrent streams allowed. Many subscribers will certainly end up paying for a couple of services, but others will be forced to migrate or shave their monthly subscriptions.

However, at this point it may no longer be just about the price – the number of services people need to control, pay for and take advantage of is slowly reaching a tipping point. Even if you can afford to pay for several subscriptions, your time is limited, and it is very unlikely that you are making the most of them. We’ve written more extensively about the so-called “subscription fatigue” in another post on our blog.

Comparison of the leading streaming platforms

Comparison of the leading streaming platforms, source.

Apple TV Plus and Disney+ further complicate things not only in terms of exclusives, pricing and programming – they are also much cheaper that HBO Max and Netflix. It may be a hard nut to crack for some subscribers, and may lead to interesting developments in terms of pricing of various streaming platforms.

In the past the tug of war was mainly between the various streaming providers, pirate alternatives and cable operators. Today, we are increasingly seeing streaming platforms fighting for dominance – i.e. subscribers and dollars – between each other.

The weapons in their arsenal include pricing, programming, exclusives and compatibility with various TVs and mobile devices.

Who is Apple TV Plus for?

Apple TV Plus currently offers the smallest number of own titles – out of the ten original shows announced, only eight were available at launch. However, the limited programming is well balanced by very competitive pricing.

Apple TV Plus’s one-price subscription model offers UHD resolution and HDR support, and allows for six (sic!) simultaneous streams. This is the most simultaneous streams of all the streaming platforms, which nicely compensates for the measly programming.

Not all that glitters…

  • Apple’s hubris and belligerence lead to very questionable decisions – most notably, Apple TV will not be available on Android devices, Android TV sets, and game consoles (XBOX and Playstation). This is clearly a part of Apple’s power play, leveraging its hardware dominance in selected markets. As an additional bonus, however, Apple TV is free for a year with all new iPhone, Mac, and iPad purchases.
  • Apple TV launches with many new originals, but it will lack classics and characters that people know and love.
  • Apple TV Plus is only compatible with Apple TV. By comparison, Disney+ will be compatible with various TV sets at launch.
  • While Android owners can watch Apple TV Plus in the browser, the lack of a dedicated Android app, although not surprising, is somewhat a letdown.

Apple TV Plus launched on November 1 in over 100 countries. By comparison, Disney+ has launched only in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands as the only country in Europe.

Who is Disney+ for?

Disney+ will very likely attract families with children. But it’s not just for the kids! Their extensive catalog of family-friendly content including the classic animations and TV shows is complemented by various hit offerings from Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and National Geographic. The offer is just hard to ignore, especially for the price.

Disney’s main selling point is the massive library of content from its vast array of classic movies and TV shows. Don’t forget that Disney currently owns the rights to nearly all the Star Wars movies, all the Pixar films, and many Marvel Studios movies.

On top of that comes the Simpsons series and the vast trove of National Geographic content, which can’t be accessed from any other streaming platform today.

Disney’s sole price includes four simultaneous streams and UHD resolution with HDR.

Compared to Apple TV, Disney+ dominates the cross-platform compatibility. It is available through dedicated apps on:

  • PC (i.e. in-browser)
  • game consoles such as Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and (purportedly) Nintendo Switch
  • streaming sticks and set-top boxes such as Roku
  • Amazon Fire TV sticks and televisions
  • Samsung and LG smart TV’s

Not all that glitters…

  • Disney+ has launched only in a few countries. This means that if you live outside the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand (where Disney+ launched on November 19), you’ll have to make do with other options for now.

  • Disney+ will be slightly more expensive than Apple TV Plus, but the difference is compensated tenfold by the amount of content the platform offers at launch.

The Verdict

Apple TV Plus, in terms of the content, is just a blip – at least for now. It also seems geared primarily at Apple users (there’s limited support for other platforms). It is yet to be seen how many of the Apple users will pay to continue their subscriptions past the free year.

Even ignoring the price factor (i.e. Apple undercuts Disney’s already low price), Disney+ still gets the win. There is just so much content in Disney’s portfolio that it’s hard to compete with, even with the best exclusives. Perhaps a little late to the party, Disney clearly realized this when launching the streaming platform.