• Disney+ is a Winner

    Disney+ launched yesterday and I spent some time with it on my iPad and 60-inch Roku TV. My main takeaway: Disney+ is a winner. Period. End of story. It will have millions of subscribers by the end of this holiday season, and a multiple of that a year from now. As international markets roll out, the millions will multiply again, many times. Anyone’s growth estimates are just that, because how big and quickly Disney+ grows are mainly functions of how much marketing firepower Disney puts behind Disney+. Based on everything we’ve seen so far, Disney is pulling out all the stops.

    Yes, there were some well-publicized connection hiccups first thing yesterday, but they were quickly resolved. The bigger picture to focus on is that the Disney+ user experience is first-rate, something not guaranteed as established players move into video (exhibit A is Facebook Watch’s chaotic UI). Disney had a further challenge because the sheer volume of content included could quickly overwhelm the user without strong organization.

    Yet, Disney+ can be navigated easily, via browse or search (title, character or genre). Familiar icon imagery helps a lot. The 5 main tabs - Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic are useful starting points for browsing. But browsing can also be filtered by Originals, Movies and Series. And Disney created collections like “Princesses,” “Darth Vader,” and “Animals and Nature” to cluster similar content.

    Anyone who has spent time with Netflix will quickly notice how much Disney+ went to school in its UI development. The big promotional graphics at the top that auto advance. The sliding tiles for browsing (although Netflix’s are portrait and Disney+’s are landscape) organized by Originals, Recommended for You, Trending, etc.

    It’s all very familiar feeling, and that’s a good thing. Coming relatively late to the market, Disney+ benefits from tons of UI testing others have done, so what results are best practices that can be easily emulated. This removes friction for users. Contrast this with Apple TV+, which, as Colin and I discussed on last week’s podcast, is really more a brand for Apple’s originals, rather than a new service like Disney+. With Apple TV+ the user is immediately presented with third-party networks seeking their own subscriptions (e.g. HBO, Amazon, etc.), creating confusion about what Apple TV+ really is (that it lives within Apple’s TV app only confuses things further).

    In fact, when I opened my iPad and went to Apps to search for Disney+, that was the app displayed most prominently (I assume that was Disney’s marketing at work). Apple TV+ wasn’t promoted aggressively.

    Another great feature in Disney+ is the ability to easily download content to mobile devices. A familiar down arrow accompanies every piece of content in Disney+, something that’s only recently become possible in Netflix and Amazon Prime (downloading is still not available in HBO Now). There are some nice features within download too, such as selecting from 3 levels of video quality, downloading only over WiFi, and seeing how much space Disney+ content is using (and how much space remains on the device). Parents will celebrate having mobile devices pre-loaded with Disney+ content for long car and plane rides.

    No doubt the Disney+ experience will further improve over time. But right out of the gate it is very strong, and to even the youngest users, it will make sense and be easy to use. Experience was really the last box Disney+ needed to check to ensure success. It has already priced it aggressively, offered a strong 1 year free deal with Verizon (other international carriers likely to follow) and was promoted widely through Disney’s various touchpoints. And then there’s the content itself which is unsurpassed.

    Add it all up and Disney+ is clearly a winner, poised to shake up the video/TV industries. Disney took a massive swing with Disney+, but from all early appearances it has a solid hit.