By Jon Swartz
The Mouse just roared.
The Walt Disney Co. /zigman2/quotes/203410047/composite DIS +2.67% on Tuesday fired a formidable first shot in what is likely to be a prolonged streaming war this year and next that parallels Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame”: Beginning Nov. 12, when Disney’s ambitious streaming service debuts, U.S. consumers will be able to subscribe to a streaming bundle of Disney+, ESPN+ and advertising-supported Hulu for $12.99 a month.
“Nothing is more important to us than getting this right,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said of the mega-package, which was announced during the company’s quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts. Iger has referred to the services as “three legs of the stool” in Disney’s streaming strategy. In May, Disney reached a deal with Comcast Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA -0.82% to assume operational control of Hulu.
The pricing is the same rate as the most popular subscription from Netflix Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202353025/composite NFLX +1.95% , the current streaming leader, and sets a high bar for forthcoming services from Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +2.33% later this year, and AT&T Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/203165245/composite T +0.46% HBO Max and Comcast’s /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA -0.82% NBCUniversal in 2020. Apple has yet to announce pricing or availability for its Apple TV+ service, which will feature content from Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and others.
The three-headed content combo of Disney, ESPN, and Hulu could be especially troubling for Netflix, whose growth cooled in the second quarter. Netflix reported the addition of just 2.7 million paid subscribers globally, about half of what Wall Street and the company expected. Cable providers also are vulnerable as cord-cutters continue to flee those services to watch programming from their portable smart devices.
Disney’s basic streaming service, which will cost $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year unbundled, boasts a deep well of content, from Marvel superheroes to “Star Wars” and Pixar classics like “Toy Story.” It will debut with 300 film titles and 7,500 episodes of Disney TV shows, which it hopes will help it reach 60 million to 90 million worldwide subscribers by fiscal 2024, most of them outside the U.S., Disney disclosed at its investor day earlier this year.
Shares of Netflix and Apple were flat in extended trading Tuesday, after Disney’s streaming announcement. Disney shares were down 3.6% premarket Wednesday.