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Disney+ went live Tuesday — but is it worth the $7 compared to Amazon, Netflix, HBO, Hulu and Apple?

Disney has ‘Star Wars,’ Apple has a new Jennifer Aniston show, Netflix will have ‘Seinfeld’ and HBO is getting ‘South Park’

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By Andrew Keshner


ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images
What to stream, or what not to stream. That is the question.

Tuesday is the day The Mouse could be in your house.

Months after Disney unveiled its video subscription service, the wait is over. Disney+ went live Tuesday, offering approximately 7,500 TV episodes and 500 movies.

Disney /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +1.02%   is charging a $6.99 monthly price, which doesn’t sound like much — especially when you consider that will get you goodies like “Lady and the Tramp,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and more.

But how about also paying for Netflix /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +1.98% , which announced recently that it will offer all 180 “Seinfeld” episodes to viewers in 2021?

Amazon Prime /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.55% and Hulu are two other services to consider. And don’t forget AT&T’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.29%   HBO either, which already has HBO Now and will unveil HBO Max next year, replete with “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” series.

And the list goes on.

So is Disney+ a lifeline for, or just another bucket of water over the head of viewers drowning in a sea of content?

That all depends on how much consumers want to pay and what they want to watch. Experts have found most families are willing to pay at most $50 a month for streaming services, typically paying for a maximum of three services.

MarketWatch caught up with one expert, B.J. Pichman, research manager at market research firm Comperemedia, to help wade through all the choices and consider their pros and cons.

Disney+

The pros: The Disney+ offering has everything from “Star Wars” to “Bambi.” “It’s really great for families with children,” Pichman said. The service will go live Nov. 12, replete with 7,500 episodes from various Disney shows and 500 movies — and that’s just the start, Pichman said. “They’ve got a lot of runway with those series to do a lot of spin-offs,” Pichman noted.

The cons: Disney has a lot of offer, that’s for sure. But it’s still just one service, Pichman noted. “They don’t have everything. It’s one house.”

Apple TV+

The pros: “The upside is going to be completely fresh and exclusive content,” Pichman said. Not only that, it will probably look pretty slick too, he said — “typical Apple high production values.” Big names like director Steven Spielberg and actors Steve Carell and Jennifer Aniston have signed on for projects, he noted. (Some critics have been pretty rough on Carrell and Aniston’s ‘Morning Show.’)

The video service went live Nov. 1, while a gaming service for another $4.99 a month started Sept. 19. Its monthly cost is $4.99.

The cons: There’s not really much of a back catalog of shows and movies to pick from — not yet at least.

Hulu

The pros: “Hulu’s got a lot of content. They’ve got a pretty great back catalog of old television programs,” he said. That includes past hit shows like “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy” and “30 Rock.” And it’s pretty quick to post current primetime programming. “For the cord cutter, they are not really missing out on any broadcast TV,” he said.

The cons: “Original programing is pretty sparse right now,” noting that original shows like “The Handmaid’s Tale” are few and far between, in his view. And then there are the commercials that viewers have to watch on the basic plan, which could actually be a pro or a con. “If you don’t mind the commercials, it’s a very competitive price,” Pichman said.

Netflix

The pros: Choice, choice, choices. There’s the catalog of Hollywood movies and televisions shows — soon to be filled with “Seinfeld” episodes — and all the original programming like “Stranger Things,” “Black Mirror” and “Orange is the New Black.” “Netflix still has a lot of content,” and it’s pouring money into creating even more, Pichman said.

The cons: “Netflix is starting to look expensive in comparison,” Pichman said. While the Netflix basic plan is $8.99, the premium one is $15.99 a month. And some of the new programming coming out now leaves Pichman a little underwhelmed. “The content coming out now feels a little rushed,” he said.

Amazon Prime Video

The pros: “The fact you get it for free with Prime membership is fantastic,” said Pichman. And there’s also some good shows on there as well, he noted — that includes shows like “Transparent,” the “Jack Ryan” series, and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

The cons: “It feels like a benefit for Amazon Prime people that most people don’t know they have,” he said. There are certainly some hits on the programming, but there are misses too. “It feels random,” Pichman said of the array of shows and movies. And while $119-a-year Amazon Prime memberships have their perks, they aren’t for everyone.

HBO Now

The pros: HBO is a clear leader in quality programming, Pichman said. The outlet has “huge well-known shows, arguably some of the best,” including TV icons like “Game of Thrones,” “The Sopranos,” and more recent hits like “Big Little Lies,” and “Succession.”

The cons: The price tag. “Now with Disney Plus and Hulu and Apple +, HBO [Now] seems wildly expensive,” Pichman said.

HBO Max

The pros: Think of HBO Max as a “grown up Disney Plus,” Pichman said. That’s because it will come right out of the gate with a range of time-tested shows, albeit some that skew darker than some of what’s on Disney. There’s the delightfully foul-mouthed “South Park” and streaming of DC superhero movies like the “Batman” franchise. The bleak, record-breaking “Joker” will also be there.

HBO Max will launch in May 2020 and the lighter fare will include “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Pretty Little Liars” and new Warner Bros.-produced shows.

There’s also some cool setting features in the works, Pichman said. Couples can create a couples profile to recommend shows the two would like to watch together. Another bell and whistle will be seeing what real-life people, like celebrities Bill Hader and Zac Efron, recommend to watch instead of a computer algorithm.

For viewers, “it’s going to feel like they are getting HBO and more for the same price,” Pichman said.

The cons: But the price is also the downside, Pichman said. HBO Max will also cost $14.99 a month. (People paying for HBO Now will get HBO Max for free.) “When you look at the price across the competitive landscape, it’s most expensive one,” he said.

Pichman noted HBO is also planning an ad-supported version of HBO Max to launch in 2021. It may not be free, but it will likely be cheaper than the $15 a month price, he said.

Consumers have no shortage of choices — but certainly a shortage of time and energy. They’ll have to figure out what works for them. “I think attention span and time-wise, people will have hard time paying for more than three [services]” Pichman said, later adding, “It’s hard finding time to consume all that content.”

Disney shares have been up almost 26% this year compared to an almost 19% gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.11%  and an 23% increase for the S&P 500 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.29%  

This story was updated on Nov. 12, 2019.

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US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 147.59
+1.49 +1.02%
Volume: 8.26M
Dec. 11, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
21.21
Dividend Yield
1.19%
Market Cap
$266.02 billion
Rev. per Employee
$295,532
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/zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 298.93
+5.81 +1.98%
Volume: 5.61M
Dec. 11, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
95.41
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$131.01 billion
Rev. per Employee
$2.22M
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/zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 1,748.72
+9.51 +0.55%
Volume: 2.10M
Dec. 11, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
77.42
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$867.01 billion
Rev. per Employee
$359,671
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/zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 38.17
+0.11 +0.29%
Volume: 18.53M
Dec. 11, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
17.09
Dividend Yield
5.34%
Market Cap
$278.83 billion
Rev. per Employee
$637,332
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/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
27,911.30
+29.58 +0.11%
Volume: 221.70M
Dec. 11, 2019 5:01p
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US : S&P US
3,141.63
+9.11 +0.29%
Volume: 1.71B
Dec. 11, 2019 5:01p
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Andrew Keshner is a personal finance reporter based in New York.

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