Netflix vs. Disney Plus: Can the Mouse House unseat the streaming king?

Disney Plus, the new streaming service from the company that owns the biggest names in entertainment, isn’t out yet, but it’s already on its way to becoming Netflix’s number one rival. In an ideal world, you’d subscribe to both. In reality, there are already too many streaming services out there vying for your money and your time. If you’re planning ahead, which one of the two will you choose?

Debuting November 12, 2019, there’s a lot about Disney Plus that we have yet to discover, and we’ll be updating this rundown regularly as we learn more. Still, if you’re curious about how the upcoming clash of the streaming titans will unfold, this is what we know so far.

Content

In many ways, the Netflix versus Disney Plus battle will come down to a quality-versus-quantity debate. At launch, Disney Plus will offer about 7,000 episodes of television shows and somewhere between 400 and 500 movies. That’s less than one-fifth of the number of TV shows Netflix offers, and only one-eighth of the feature films.

But — and this is a big “but” — Disney Plus’ listings include many of the most popular films and television shows ever made. Within a year after its debut, Disney Plus will host all of the Star Wars films, most of which are currently hard to find online. Disney Plus will also be the exclusive digital home for all new Marvel movies, with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe joining the service as previous deals expire (ahem, with Netflix). Every Disney animated film will be available on the service (with the exception of Song of the South), as will all 30 seasons of The Simpsons because Disney bought almost all Fox properties.

Disney Plus’ original offerings aren’t anything to scoff at, either. With the Star Wars movies going on a three-year hiatus following Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker, Disney Plus’ live-action Star Wars series will be the only way to get your fix of a galaxy far, far away. Marvel shows like WandaVision, Falcon and Winter Soldier, and the untitled Loki and Hawkeye series will build on some intriguing plot threads that Avengers: Endgame left dangling. For kids, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and the Pixar spinoff Monsters at Work should be big draws, and the National Geographic content is nice to have, too.

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On the other hand, Netflix has poured billions of dollars into its own original programming, and it’s ended up with some of the best shows on television as a result, in a dizzying spectrum of genres and formats. Netflix is the only place where you’ll find established hits like Stranger Things, The Crown, and Black Mirror, as well as buzzworthy recent releases like Russian Doll and The Haunting of Hill House.

Netflix also has shelled out lots of money to secure non-Disney favorites like Friends and The Office, at least for now. Don’t count out Netflix’s feature film slate, either. From Oscar-winning originals like Roma to cult hits like Hot Fuzz and Moon, Netflix has more movies than you could ever possibly watch. Disney Plus might have the biggest blockbusters, but Netflix offers a more varied and eclectic lineup. If you want options, Netflix is the way to go.

Price

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Disney Plus has less content, but it costs less too. At launch, a monthly Disney Plus subscription will only set you back $7 (or $70 per year), although we expect that price to rise over time. It’s not clear how many screens Disney Plus will play on at once, but Disney has confirmed that you’ll be able to make multiple profiles and that the app will stream 4K Ultra HD video at no extra charge — for now, anyway.

Meanwhile, Netflix keeps getting more expensive. Right now, a Basic plan costs $9 a month, but that only lets you stream one movie at a time and only in SD resolution. Standard, which includes two simultaneous streams and HD resolution, is $13, while a four-screen Ultra HD Premium plan is $16. Netflix still offers its old disc mailing service, too, which runs between $8 and $15 depending on whether you want DVDs or Blu-rays and how many movies you want to keep at a time. Disney will undoubtedly get more expensive — the market all-but demands it — but it’s going to be a sweet bargain for some time.

User interface

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Disney clearly took a lot of inspiration from Netflix when designing Disney Plus. From everything we’ve seen (which is still just a prototype), the two apps look remarkably similar. Both Netflix and Disney Plus have a large window that highlights featured material, followed by horizontal lists that sort content into new releases, personalized recommendations, and other categories. Disney Plus has a few extra buttons that let you sort content by franchise, but otherwise, they seem to be very similar.

Disney Plus’ user interface is still a work-in-progress, and could change before the app is released in November. We’ll keep you updated.

Devices

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Until Disney Plus comes out, we won’t know exactly which devices the service will support. At the investor-focused Disney Plus reveal event, Disney said it had already made deals to put Disney Plus on Roku streaming boxes and the PlayStation 4 console, and that the company is hoping to get its app on everything from Amazon Fire TVs to the Nintendo Switch. However, there’s currently no guarantee that you’ll be able to watch Disney Plus on your Chromecast, Blu-ray player, or smart TV at launch.

Meanwhile, Netflix is already available on virtually every device you can imagine. There isn’t currently a Netflix app on the Nintendo Switch, but otherwise, you should be able to stream Netflix on any modern tablet, smartphone, streaming box, gaming console, or smart TV. Check Netflix’s official compatibility list for more specifics.

Conclusion

It’s far too early to fully compare Netflix and Disney Plus, given that many Disney Plus key features, including its final user interface, are still unknown. We’ll probably have to wait until November — at the earliest — before we can give you a full rundown.

There are some general conclusions that we can already make, however. If your viewing habits skew toward big blockbusters like Marvel and Star Wars, or if you have kids who you’re looking to keep busy, you’re going to want Disney Plus.

If you’re not a fan of those properties, stick with Netflix. While it costs more, Netflix offers more variety in terms of genre, has a bigger selection of movies and television shows, and already hosts a large number of critically acclaimed original series. Disney Plus looks great, but it’s geared toward fans of Disney’s specific franchises. By contrast, Netflix is for everyone.

That said, if you’re anything like us, you’ll be opening that wallet just a bit wider for both — they both occupy their own space in the streaming lexicon, and both going will be incredibly compelling in their own way.

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