In the decade since it first pioneered its streaming video platform, Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) has had the field largely to itself. Several other would-be competitors, including Hulu, Prime Video from Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), and others, have tempted to wrest the lead from its digital grasp. But Netflix's relentless focus on spending to bulk up its library has thus far laid waste to all comers.
That could all change when multimedia behemoth Disney (NYSE: DIS) enters the ring. The company recently announced its Disney+ direct-to-consumer service, which is set to launch on Nov. 12 for $6.99 per month. With a trove of intellectual property going back decades, and new blockbusters hitting theaters every year, the House of Mouse may be the rival that can finally give Netflix a run for its money.
There's long been talk of a company that would topple Netflix as the streaming king, but thus far, such attempts have been unsuccessful. A just-released survey, however, seems to indicate that Netflix has reason to worry.
A Netflix killer?
As much as 14.5% of Netflix's current U.S. subscriber base of 60 million said they are considering canceling the service in order to sign up for Disney+, according to a survey by the website Streaming Observer in partnership with data analysis firm Mindnet Analytics. That would be a whopping 8.7 million customers!
The study, which was conducted earlier this month, found that 12.3% of current subscribers said they "might cancel Netflix and get Disney+" while another 2.2% said they will "definitely cancel Netflix" once Disney+ is available.
This could be costly for Netflix. With its most popular plan now $12.99 per month, losing 14.5% of its U.S. subscriber base could cost the company more than $113 million monthly, or $1.36 billion in a year.
The study found that more than 37% of current Netflix customers said they will try Disney+ when it debuts. Another key finding is that parents are twice as likely as nonparents to consider canceling Netflix for Disney+. That makes sense, considering Disney's massive library of family-friendly programming -- which includes movies and television shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and the Star Wars universe, as well as from Fox and National Geographic. Netflix, on the other hand, has something for everyone, including programs that are clearly for adults only.
Disney is forecasting between 60 million and 90 million subscribers to its streaming service within five years, and those subscribers will have to come from somewhere. It's easy to assume that some of those may come at Netflix's expense, but that may not be the case.
A little perspective is in order
It's important to point out certain limitations regarding the Streaming Observer survey. First, the study gathered data from just 602 current Netflix subscribers, which is a small number for a survey of this type (the survey methodology said it had a margin of error of +/-4%). The larger the sample size, the more reliable the findings.
Another important consideration, which was noted in the results, is that just because people say they will cancel, doesn't mean they actually will. "Of course, the reality is, many people who threaten to cancel won't actually follow through and do so," said Chris Brantner of Streaming Observer.
Not so simple
Several recent studies, including Deloitte's 2019 Media Trends survey, have reported that the average U.S. household now subscribes to three streaming video services. Any subscriber's services could be on the chopping block in order to make room for Disney+ -- not just Netflix.
This isn't a zero-sum game. There will be room for multiple successful competitors, and Netflix doesn't have to be the lone winner -- just one of them.
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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Danny Vena owns shares of Amazon, Netflix, and Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2021 $85 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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