Login is restricted to DCN Publisher Members. If you are a DCN Member and don't have an account, register here.

Digital Content Next logo


InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How Disney+ and AppleTV+ are changing the OTT landscape

November 12, 2019 | By Todd Krizelman, CEO – MediaRadar@ToddKrizelman

It’s a big month for streaming. The launch of Apple TV+ and Disney+ are finally upon us. So it’s a good time for an update on the state of the streaming wars. 

In this strange new world, tech companies like Apple are investing in content, and media companies like Disney are investing in technology. So how does? all this effort stack up? A closer look at the content and ad spend of these new OTT major players provides some insight into the future of streaming.

Content spending among new OTT services

At launch, Disney+ unsurprisingly boasts a sizable catalog of Disney-owned content. The company has also announced that $2.5 billion will be allocated to producing more original content for the platform over the next 5 years. 

Conversely, Apple has opted for a small but mighty catalog. At launch AppleTV+ was armed with considerable “star power” to entice subscribers. The platform will host entirely original content exclusively available to AppleTV+ subscribers. And pre-launch advertisements reveal some of the biggest names in acting and directing.

Although these two major players bring promising new content to the OTT lineup, they will have to continuously find ways to retain value in the eyes of consumers.  

Monthly subscriptions to the top seven streaming platforms will collectively cost $61. Consumers will more realistically pick and choose the platforms they actually want to pay for.  These leaves companies pitching both price point and content.  

Clearly, these numbers indicate that Disney and Apple are attempting to join the royalty of OTT, made up of existing streamers like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, which all have their own originally produced hits. With the launch of HBO Max in 2020, AT&T’s WarnerMedia may join the club soon. 

With content creation underway and platforms officially launched, OTT services can now shift focus to conveying value to win the favor of consumers, who have more options than ever before. And that is where marketing and advertising come in. What does advertising an OTT option in an already crowded space look like? 

Apple and Disney spend big ahead of streaming launch

For now, let’s look at the two headline makers: AppleTV+ and Disney+. 

Here at MediaRadar, we found that both platforms only started running ads in late August. AppleTV+ quickly overtook not only Disney+’s ad spend, but the entire streaming space. In the month of September, AppleTV+ was the top ad spender out of all streaming platforms. This includes established players like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

To date, Apple TV+ has outspent Disney+ five times over on paid media. What’s more, AppleTV+ has not slowed their efforts now that the platform has launched. Ten days into November, AppleTV+ is on pace to once again be the top ad buyer out of all the streaming platforms this month.

The two companies differ in strategy, as well. Disney has promoted its new streaming platform as a whole, using clips from owned content to pitch the breadth of the platform. While Apple has been promoting its original content in stand-alone spots. So far, it has focused ad spend around eight shows in particular.

AppleTV+ may be outspending Disney+ on paid media. However, that does not mean Disney’s marketing push has been insignificant in any way. In fact, Disney has been orchestrating a massive marketing push using all of their various channels. 

This push includes everything from on-air endorsements from Tom Bergeron (host of “Dancing With the Stars” on the Disney owned ABC network), to billboard and bus ads around Disney’s theme parks, to QR codes on lanyards worn by Disney’s 7,000+ retail workers at various Disney store locations. In one of the more interesting moves, Disney posted a video on YouTube titled “Basically Everything Coming to Disney+”, using snippets of movies available on the platform. The video was over 3 hours long.

On top of this, Disney has rolled out packaged deal after packaged deal thanks to its extensive holdings and powerful partnerships. For example: Verizon announced a year of free Disney+ for both new and existing customers, and more impressively Disney announced a $12.99 bundle with Disney+, ESPN and Hulu (both of which are majority-owned and controlled by house mouse). Visa card holders who have a Disney branded credit card can even lock in a discounted price for 2 or 3 years. Apple, for its part, is including a year subscription to Apple TV+ with the purchase of any Apple product. 

Apple is almost on the defensive in this new world, playing as a tech company against media giants like Disney. No one says the best movies come from Apple today. They have a real deficiency in terms of changing perception that they are a place where you should go to watch your content.

In a bid to make that case, Apple has spent $20 million advertising its two biggest shows ahead of the launch. 

In contrast, Disney’s robust offerings, combined with constant messaging across Disney properties, may immediately drive Disney+ to the top. “Think of Disney like a giant pinball machine, with content and initiatives pinging between divisions in an effort to drive up the ultimate score,” Gene Del Vecchio, a marketing professor at USC, told The New York Times. 

With all this activity from the new platforms, and platforms like HBO Max and Peacock yet to join the fray, the streaming wars are heating up. It will certainly be interesting to watch how these companies market themselves as they fight for subscribers who will have many providers to choose from.

Liked this article?

Subscribe to the InContext newsletter to get insights like this delivered to your inbox every week.