Walt Disney’s empire has always stood at the forefront of family entertainment. Their story began in 1923 and their famous mascot (Mickey Mouse) was first introduced in 1928. They operate today across 4 business segments: 1) Media Networks, 2) Parks, Experiences & Products, 3) Studio Entertainment and 4) Direct-to-Consumer & International. #4 is what includes Disney+ (Disney Plus) as well as ESPN+ and Hulu. Plus was launched in America in November 2019 and here in the UK in March 2020. They’ve already attracted close to 60 million subscribers with 4.3 million in the UK, marking them as already the 3rd leading service only trailing Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Disney+ movies are suited to kids (animation) and superhero fans (Marvel). Many subs have come for The Mandalorian and the rest of the Star Wars franchise, as well as The Simpsons. They seem to be intent on keeping the platform family-friendly even though they could expand through their 20th Century and Touchstone subsidiaries. Disney’s library has 900+ movie selections and 500+ TV shows. They offer 1080p viewing and 4K on selected titles, with Dolby sound and 4 screen viewings. A free 7 day trial will get you underway and then a reasonable £5.99 monthly plan will be charged. For a full year £59.99 is available to maximise value.
Amazon needs little introduction as the largest internet company by revenue. Now a household name and the founder (Jeff Bezos) who formed the company in 1994 (1998 in the UK) is the world’s richest man. Amazon’s business extends across many sectors and they’ve acquired 100+ companies. The Prime membership scheme certainly sits at the core. This was rolled out in 2005 (locally in 2007) and has now surpassed 150 million subscribers (7.9m of which are UK based). We have profiled full membership here due to the added perks of deals, music, reading and shipping. Membership costs £7.99 (monthly) or £79 (year), but you could just opt for Video for £5.99.
Amazon’s Studios department produces and acquires content. These are then packaged as an Original. A subscription for Amazon Prime movies and TV shows brings with it more than 15,000 titles. Prime Video itself is much larger through available purchases and rentals that you can add to your library. Then there is the Channels section for BFI Player, MGM, Mubi, Shudder, StarzPlay, Sundance Now etc. These are available on 7 day trials. Prime’s trial itself lasts a good 30 days. Prime’s titles play in 1080p with Dolby Digital Plus for enhanced sound (when available). Amazon’s interface is a common gripe for discovering content. Only select titles are promoted with minimal categorisation.
Sky has always stood clear as the UK’s dominant pay TV provider. Rupert Murdoch created a media powerhouse that has recently passed hands on to Comcast after a fierce bidding war with Disney played out. Sky’s Premier League contract is enough to keep sporting fans around, but many customers will have boycotted expensive contracts to get their movie fix from monthly streaming services like Netflix. Sky’s equivalent (Now TV) matched Netflix’s local launch of 2012, but it took some time to grow. They have however enjoyed recent success building up 1.6 million subscribers. They otherwise only operate in Germany, Italy and Spain. To compete, they’ll surely need to expand.
Now TV movies are packaged as a Sky Cinema Pass that includes a free 7 day trial. This grants access to around 1200 movie selections. You can also purchase or rent via the Sky Store. Now’s volume isn’t vast, but the quality is high. This quality equates to a pricey £11.99 membership, with £3 on top for full HD access. If you want television shows, then you’ll need an Entertainment Month Pass (£8.99) whilst a chunky £33.99 will be required for Sports (day passes are £9.99). Live sport is however problematic due to a 30-45 seconds lag. Now’s only phone number is 0330 332 3050, but this is for broadband calls.
Netflix has become a global pioneer in online streaming, but they had modest beginnings offering DVD rentals across their home country. Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings formed the business in 1997 with the site launch following in 1998. The voyage into streaming video started in 2007 and they would form locally in 2012. Today they have attracted over 182 million paid subscriptions worldwide and are the UK’s market leader with 13 million members. Their site is impressively the 21st most visited that is impressive considering that many people use their app to access content. This content is extensive, surpassing 6000 titles with just over 4000 or so Netflix movies.
Originals have been key for growth where they either hold exclusive contracts or have invented on the production side. There have been many excellent partnerships, especially noting the gaining of rights for Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad (+El Camino). Netlix’s service is available across 3 plans priced from £5.99 to £11.99 monthly. This grants full access, with no adverts and the ability to cancel and pick-up a pass at any time. A neat travel feature enables downloads on your phone or tablet. It’s a shame that they have now removed their free trial offer. You can find these at their rivals. Some of which are more suited to movie buffs.