Disney+ has a secret weapon: millennial nostalgia

In the aftermath of Disney’s big event earlier this month to unveil the details of its Disney+ streaming service, much of the conversation centered around all the new original content Disney is planning for the platform. Disney+ will have 25 original series in its first year, including multiple “Star Wars” spinoffs like “The Mandalorian,” and multiple Marvel spinoffs like “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.”

Original content is always the loudest, most buzzy ingredient on any video platform. But the quieter secret weapon of Disney+ is the vast library of old movies and shows from the late 1980s and the 1990s—those could lure an entire generation to subscribe.

The nostalgia effect

Millennials grew up on Disney movies like “The Little Mermaid” (1989) and “Toy Story” (1995), and on animated shows like “DuckTales” (1987) and “Goof Troop” (1992), and live-action Disney and ABC shows like “Boy Meets World” and “That’s So Raven.” Those will all be on Disney+. Many millennials are new parents or soon to become new parents, making them a possible sweet spot target demographic for Disney.

That’s not to mention “The Simpsons” and “Malcom in the Middle,” Fox shows that are now part of the Disney library thanks to its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.

A screenshot from Disney's "The Little Mermaid."
A screenshot from Disney's "The Little Mermaid."

Of course, it’s not only the millennial generation that will feel nostalgia for classic Disney content. The same arguably holds just as true for Gen-X, even though a large handful of the most famous Disney classics, like “Peter Pan,” “The Jungle Book,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and the original “Lion King” won’t be on the platform at launch due to rights deals with other platforms. (When those deals expire, expect those titles to migrate to Disney+.)

Disney knows the power of its old classics: back in 2012, Disney Junior Channel began running a series of “heritage interstitials,” short, new clips featuring beloved characters from movies like “The Little Mermaid” and “101 Dalmatians.”

DISNEY JUNIOR HERITAGE INTERSTITIAL - '101 Dalmatians' - New interstitials featuring Disney heritage characters, including Sebastian and Flounder from 'The Little Mermaid,' Mrs. Potts and Chip from 'Beauty and the Beast,' and pups Lucky and Pepper '101 Dalmatians,' will debut with the new 24-hour Disney Junior Channel on Friday, March 23. (Disney Junior via Getty Images) LUCKY, PEPPER
Lucky and Pepper, from Disney's "101 Dalmatians," in a still from Disney Junior Channel's "Heritage Interstitials" series in 2012. (Disney Junior via Getty Images)

Looking at the full list of everything that will be on Disney+ at launch is also a reminder of just how many distinct homes of content Disney now owns: ABC, A&E, FX, ESPN, National Geographic, History Channel, Fox, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm are just some of the biggest.

All of these networks and studios are now in the pipeline feeding content to Disney+, and that makes the Disney+ launch price tag of $6.99 per month extremely appealing, especially compared to Netflix, which recently raised its standard plan to $12.99 per month.

Netflix may not need to panic about Disney+ yet—but soon it will

Analyst notes sent out last week around Netflix’s Q1 earnings report all made a lot of hay with the debate over how much of a threat Disney+ will pose to Netflix.

Deutsche Bank wrote that “competitive concerns are exaggerated” because “the idea that consumers will choose Disney+ over Netflix seems unrealistic.” It is true that in the short run, consumers are unlikely to treat the two services as mutually exclusive: those who sign up for Disney+ at launch aren’t likely to cancel Netflix to do so.

But down the road, perhaps not so long from now, more consumers will start to re-assess their digital subscriptions, and may feel inclined to cut one or two of them.

A 2017 Deloitte report projected that by the end of 2020, 20% of adults in developed countries will be paying for 10 digital media subscriptions. At an estimated average of $10 per month for each subscription, that’s $100 per month—way over the average $85 per month for cable.

As we approach “peak streaming,” it will no longer be the case that OTT platforms like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, DAZN, and HBO Now (just to name a few) can all co-exist. The battle over shares of consumers’ wallets will only get more and more cutthroat.

Bank of America, in its Netflix earnings note, dismissed the Disney+ launch as “near-term competitive noise.” The reality is likely the opposite: that in the near term, Netflix and Disney+ can happily coexist, but in the long term, consumers may choose to cut one from their subscription buffet. When that time comes, Disney’s unrivaled library of original content, new and old, will be difficult to beat.

Daniel Roberts is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance and closely covers streaming tech. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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