- The next phase of the streaming wars is heating up as legacy media brands like Disney, WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal prepare to launch their own video services.
- Disney will be first out of the gate this year with a family-focused service, Disney Plus. WarnerMedia is readying HBO Max for next spring. And Comcast’s NBCUniversal is gearing up to release a streaming platform in April.
- Here’s everything we know about these platforms so far, including the programming, pricing, and launch plans.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
After years of losing TV subscribers to streaming services like Netflix, TV giants Disney, WarnerMedia, and NBCUniversal are entering the streaming wars head on.
The three legacy media brands are each preparing to launch streaming services in the next year.
Disney’s forthcoming service will court families and flesh out the media conglomerate’s three-pronged streaming strategy, which also includes Hulu and ESPN Plus. WarnerMedia’s offering is banking on the HBO brand, and building on it with original series and programming from Warner Bros. and DC. And NBCUniversal is looking to its library programming for its streaming complement to parent company Comcast’s cable service.
Here’s everything we know about these services so far. Business Insider will continue to cover them as plans develop.
Disney will be the first out of the gate with the November launch of its family-friendly streaming service, Disney Plus.
The platform will rely heavily on flagship Disney brands, including Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar, as well as National Geographic, which Disney recently acquired along with other assets from 21st Century Fox.
Disney is leveraging Marvel, in particular, to get the streaming service off the ground. It’s making Marvel series exclusively for Disney Plus that will be pivotal to the plots of future films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has grossed more than $22 billion at the box office across 23 movies.
Disney Plus will also have a robust collection of Disney films, which could make it indispensable to parents.
The service will be available for a subscription fee, and will not include advertising.
Disney also plans to bundle it in the same platform as its other streaming services, including Hulu, its newly controlled home for adult programming, and its sports hub, ESPN Plus. But the company has not said whether the bundle will be available when Disney Plus launches, or if there will be a discount for subscribing to more than one of its service.
US launch date: November 12, 2019
Price: $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year
Programming highlights: Star Wars spinoff "The Mandalorian"; Marvel series "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," "WandaVision," "Loki," "Hawkeye," and "What If…"; Disney Channel spinoffs like "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series"; new and old releases from Disney’s movie studios, as the rights becomes available, like "Avengers: Endgame" and "The Lion King."
Read more about Disney’s streaming strategy:
- How Disney’s marketing advantage over Netflix will be its secret weapon in the streaming war
- Disney execs explain how ESPN Plus is helping build a weapon to fight Netflix, and what they’ve learned from Facebook
With Disney leaning on family-friendly franchises, AT&T’s WarnerMedia appears to be going all-in on its adult network HBO.
The company’s upcoming streaming service will be called HBO Max. It will feature programming from HBO, as well as other WarnerMedia brands like Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, TBS, TNT, and CNN. HBO Max will have original series and movies, some of which may tie into WarnerMedia titles off of the platform. The series, "Dune: Sisterhood," for example, is based on Frank Herbert’s "Dune" universe, which Warner Bros. is also adapting for film.
HBO Max will have a back catalog of old Warner Bros. movies and TV shows, like "Friends" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," as well, to keep subscribers interested in between new releases. It also has a licensing deal with BBC Studios to stream "Doctor Who" and other shows on the service.
Unlike Netflix, HBO Max will also have live sports and news, though likely not at launch.
"You should assume that, ultimately, HBO Max will have live elements," Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T, said on the company’s second quarter conference call. "Those live elements — both unique live sports, premium sports, the ones we just went through, NBA, Major League Baseball, NCAA basketball — those are going to be really, really important elements for HBO Max. The same with news."
WarnerMedia has talked about a few different business models for HBO Max. At launch, it’s expected to be available for a subscription fee, and without ads. Some programming, such as the live sports and news, will probably feature advertising down the line.
US launch date: Spring 2020
Price: TBD; likely more than the $14.99 per month that HBO Now costs
Programming highlights: Original shows "Dune: Sisterhood"; "Love Life," a romantic comedy starring Anna Kendrick; an animated "Gremlins" series, and a revival of "Gossip Girl." Upcoming HBO programming like Stephen King’s "The Outsider"; "The Undoing," from David E. Kelley and starring Nicole Kidman; and "The Nevers," from Joss Whedon. New dramas from the CW including "Batwoman" and "Katy Keene." DC Universe series like "Doom Patrol." And reruns of Warner Bros. shows like "Friends" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," and BBC Studios shows like "Doctor Who" and "Top Gear."
Read more about WarnerMedia’s streaming strategy:
- HBO Max will be WarnerMedia’s answer to Netflix, coming in the spring of 2020
- A WarnerMedia exec describes the challenges of uniting HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros. and launching the company’s new innovation lab
NBCUniversal’s untitled streaming service
NBCUniversal’s as-of-yet-untitled streaming service will have a built-in subscriber base when it launches next April. The company plans to make the service free, with ads, to Comcast’s more than 21 million US cable-TV subscribers, and subscribers to other pay-TV bundles. Others will have a pay a subscription fee to access the service.
NBC hasn’t revealed much about the content lineup for its streaming offering. We know it’ll have "The Office," because NBC is yanking it from Netflix to stream exclusively on the forthcoming service starting in 2021. NBC also saved the sitcom "A.P. Bio." from cancellation, by renewing it for a third streaming season.
NBC’s platform could also have content from Sky Studios, NBCUniversal UK-based sister company, which is focused on European productions, such as the mini-series "Chernobyl," which was made with HBO.
The company is building the streaming service on the back of Sky’s Now TV platform technology. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke recently said more than 500 people are working on the service.
US launch date: April 2020
Price: Free for pay-TV subscribers; TBD for everyone else
Programming highlights: Old NBC shows like "The Office." Original series like "A.P. Bio," the first two seasons of which aired on NBC’s US broadcast network.
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