The Disney+ effect: could growing competition in entertainment lead to new experiences for fans?

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The battle for dominance in the home entertainment space has been raging this year. Disney+ gained 7.9 million new subscribers in the first three months of 2022 alone and is on track to hit a potential total of 260 million by 2024.

With Netflix off to a shaky start this spring, losing 200,000 subscribers compared to the previous quarter, and with Disney+ exceeding the growth of leading platforms like HBO Max, competition in the space is growing fiercer.

And rumour has it that Disney is planning to spend $33 billion on content this fiscal year, making it clear that its conquest to gain new subscriptions is far from over.

News that has attracted the attention of the media and consumers most recently is the announcement that ads will begin to appear in platform across our favourite streaming sites, with Disney+ being one of the more recent platforms to release a statement.

While the platform has assured subscribers that the ads will be targeted and capped at four minutes per hour, with over one third of Brits already saying that they’d cancel an ad-funded Netflix, could this be a risky move for a platform still on the up? We’ll soon find out.  

Alongside these developments, home entertainment front runners have been in contest to create larger and more impactful moments with their fans and audiences, predominantly through experiential and brand activations.

With rivalry in this space growing, this is a trend that we’re likely to see continue in 2022 and beyond.

Physical activations: A force to be reckoned with

When it comes to activations, we’ve certainly seen Disney leading the charge in the Out of Home (OOH) space, pulling out the big guns (or lightsabers) in recent months. To promote its latest Star Wars show, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Disney lit up Battersea Power Station with beams resembling two iconic lightsabers from the franchise.

With Netflix known for its OOH activations promoting hit shows in the UK, Disney are clearly ready for a duel, rivalling the brand’s prowess in this space. And, judging from the positive reactions that fans shared on Twitter, the brand has proven that OOH truly still remains and impactful way to reach your audience.

Star Wars Lightsabers in London
Star Wars Lightsabers in London

But that’s not to say Netflix has held back on the activation front in 2022. Taking a more immersive approach when promoting the latest season of Stranger Things, Netflix launched a scavenger hunt turned experiential campaign in partnership with BBH London in Shoreditch.

The campaign encouraged fans to seek out posters advertising products featured within the show. Once located, the advertisements displayed phone numbers for fans to call and many reported receiving strange voicemail messages after getting in touch. At the sites, people also began to appear in hazmat suits and the Netflix UK Twitter account posted images of them on-the-ground to drive further interest.

Netflix's Stranger Things fictional brands promotion
Netflix’s Stranger Things fictional brands promotion

Other leading entities have also invested heavily in targeting consumers through experiential, albeit in different markets. In the US, Amazon Prime Video promoted the new season of The Boys this year with an interactive installation, giving fans the chance to explore VoughtLand, a theme park which exists within the show. Visitors were able to pick up themed food and drinks and take a ride on a carousel – immersing themselves within the world of The Boys.

And in the UK specifically, with the conversation Disney+ sparked through its Star Wars campaign, we’re likely to see the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix launch further activations in the year ahead, levelling up their game to compete.

While this will lead to bigger and better experiences for fans, the impact of introducing on-platform ads on customer retention and loyalty is yet to be seen.

Will the fans strike back, meaning their experiential efforts will have been made in vain? Or will bigger activations spark a new hope for fans originally put off at the thought of having to battle ads each time they switch on their TV or laptop?  

What does this mean for the future of home entertainment?

Well, one thing is for certain, ads from our favourite entertainment platforms will begin to spread from the streets onto our screens whether we like it or not.

The question is, which platform will be able to land them in the most non-invasive way possible, mitigating the potential loss of subscribers? With a relatively minimal ad strategy announced, Disney appear to be on the right track, but until major players such as Netflix launch their ad offerings, the contest to gain and maintain subscribers is still very much alive.

But that’s not to say that these players will be diverting their attention away from OOH and immersive experiences. With more flagship shows such as Andor, the Star Wars Rogue One continuation set to launch across Disney+ and more exclusive shows rolling out across Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video this year, we’re likely to see leading entertainment brands unveil new, tricks, stunts and activations – much to the delight of the fans.

  • Ben Robinson,
    Account Manager