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When it launched in the United States, Disney+ found 10 million subscribers in the first 24 hours and no shortage of server issues. A week later, on 19 November 2019, the anticipated streaming TV service has landed in New Zealand. Can it find similar success here? Will it find similar problems?
As a company, Disney needs no introduction. It’s huge – like Dumbo’s ears, Donald’s temper, Han Solo’s ego, Hulk’s biceps and Homer’s love of donuts.
You know the brands. Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel, Mickey Mouse, The Simpsons, National Geographic, Toy Story… we could go on. And on. And on. To date, they’ve been spread out across the gamut of Kiwi TV streaming services. You could find them on Netflix for a while. Then they would rotate providers and then rotate back.
Now, these brands and countless others have a place to call home. It’s Disney+.
Turning on Disney+ for the first time won’t blow your mind. Disney+ is a by-the-numbers Netflix clone. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but some innovation would have been nice.
Some featured content boxes interrupt line after line of horizontal EPGs broken out into genres and “trending search” filters. You can jump straight into Kids mode, or select from the five major Disney pillars: Disney, Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic and Pixar. You can download anything you want for offline use, too.
In fact, Disney ticks almost all the expected boxes when it comes to features. As well as offline viewing, there’s 4K, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support for selected films and TV. Naturally, this is mostly true of recent productions, but there were some older-school surprises in the 4K Disney+ list, including Star Wars.
Four simultaneous streams and family sharing for up to seven accounts rounds out the key features. The only noticeable failing is the lack of a “continue watching” service. Quite the oversight really, with a counterintuitive watchlist a poor substitute for now. It’s surely on the list of first fixes.
If you’re confident you will love the service, you can also get Disney+ for $99.99 per year, effectively bringing the cost down to $8.33 per month.
Props must also be given to the range of compatible devices Disney+ has launched with. Outside of a native Mac app, a few smart TV brands and Airplay support, it’s exhaustive. PC, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, PS4, Xbox, Windows 10 and Smart TVs (LG, Samsung). Well done.
For sheer size and international significance, Disney+ feels like the first genuine competitor to Netflix in the streaming TV space. But it’s not; not really. Where Netflix has become a home for mature – if not adult-focused – original content, Disney is a family-focused affair heavily leaning on legacy experiences. It’s a paradise for children, with just enough cross-demographic content to keep parents and fanboys (or girls) tethered.
But to be fair dinkum stakes, Disney+ only has the one standout launch exclusive. It’s a good one; the rather excellent live-action Star Wars series The Mandalorian. It’s essential viewing for any Star Wars fans, and a fun entry point for those who managed to live in a Wookie-free bubble for the past forty years.
There are other launch exclusives, but they bring little urgency. Lady and the Tramp and Noelle are notable movies. Some documentaries like Marvel Hero Project, comedies like High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and a Jeff Goldblum curiosity are also available. Kids have some short films from Pixar to dive into with the new Forky Asks a Question series, too.
For those of you who are unconvinced, the future does look extremely bright. As we head into 2020, a run of big-name TV shows will begin emerging on the platform. Many of these are from the Marvel universe, but there will be more from Star Wars as well. This includes a second season of The Mandalorian, not to mention new seasons of shows like The Simpsons, which will all be Disney+ exclusives.
In addition, recent and future movies – both cinematic and straight-to-TV – will be Disney+ streaming exclusives. Given the usual high standard we see from Disney’s big pillar content, it means that the Disney+ content library will continue to define and distance itself from the competition into the future.
Perhaps the biggest question hanging over Disney+ is how New Zealand’s network will hold up to the strain. If demand is anything like it was for Netflix, we could be looking at months of detrimental server and node load.
Only you know the answer to that question. How’s your connection? If you find yourself already struggling in peak periods to get Netflix, Neon TV, Amazon Prime or even just YouTube working as desired, Disney+ will join that list of lemons. You’re looking at basically the same data and bandwidth demand.
Here’s a guide on how to check on your home’s Internet congestion.
If you pass this potential issue, Disney+ is a competitively priced, perfectly functional portal into the library of Disney content. Its library of classics dates back to the 1930s but is set to swell with a host of new exclusives – even if it’s a library that offers little compelling new content at launch and will only ever offer content that puts family viewing first.
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