The Wall Street Journal

Netflix's Hollywood Rivals Are Spoiling for a Fight


Disney, AT&T and Comcast have plans to enter the streaming-video ring, armed with well-known TV and movie brands. But can they hold their own against industry juggernaut Netflix? Photo illustration: Heather Seidel/The Wall Street Journal

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… show captions ↓
(crowd cheering)
- [Narrator] With 149 million customers worldwide,
it's no secret that Netflix
is the world champion of streaming video.
(bell dings)
But new competitors are entering the ring,
among them Comcast, AT&T, and Disney.
Now, those traditional media giants are gearing up
to launch subscription streaming services of their own,
entering a crowded field alongside Amazon,
Hulu, Apple, and others, and they're ready to duke it out
for who will distribute your favorite movies and TV shows.
- I say bring it on!
- [Narrator] Netflix is no ordinary foe.
It spends $12 billion a year on content,
and it's a magnet for top Hollywood producers and actors,
but most importantly,
it has a head start of more than a decade,
but the three new entrants have a secret weapon,
TV brands and movie franchises people know and love.
They've licensed a lot of their classic programming
to Netflix over the years, but now,
they'll wanna bring their hits back to their own services,
and that could pose a challenge to Netflix.
(rhythmic rock music)
First up, Comcast.
Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal has plans to launch
an ad-supported streaming service by 2020.
- You need to play to win,
but you also have to win to play.
- [Narrator] The company hasn't said much
about what will be on the service,
but viewers can expect lots of content
from their film and TV franchises.
Executives are already contemplating bringing back
The Office, Netflix's most-watched show,
since the contract expires in 2021.
Parks and Recreation is another show
Comcast might wanna fight for.
An ad-supported service will be available
to around 54 million customers that already subscribe
to Comcast Cable and Sky and other cable providers
that offer NBC channels, and those without traditional
pay TV packages will be able to subscribe for a monthly fee,
but to be competitive, Comcast may also need
to pump some cash into original programming,
but will that be enough to challenge Netflix?
(bell dings)
The next challenger?
AT&T's Warner Media. (rousing electro rock music)
AT&T's recent acquisition of Time Warner, now WarnerMedia,
means the company has bulked up into a major producer
of film and television content,
home to the Warner Brothers Studio and HBO.
With movies like The Dark Knight
and shows like Game of Thrones in their corner,
they could prove to be a major contender
in the streaming ring.
WarnerMedia streaming service is expected to launch
late this year with content from HBO, Cinemax,
Warner Brothers, and original programming.
Warner chose to keep licensing reruns of Friends to Netflix
through 2019, but Warner has the right to take the show back
once it launches the new service.
The company previously had a three-tiered
pricing plan in mind, but after reviewing the landscape,
chose to pivot before launch.
- Pivot! (audience laughing)
- [Narrator] The last challenger?
Before long, Disney will be operating
three separate video streaming services,
Hulu, ESPN+, and a new streaming service called Disney+
set to launch in November 2019.
The company said is plans to price the new Disney+ service
at $6.99 a month, almost half the cost
of a Netflix subscription.
- In my call, that's a good fight.
- [Narrator] Disney+ will be anchored by programming
from Disney's biggest franchises, including Star Wars,
Marvel Studios, and original programming,
and Disney brought in other big titles
like The Simpsons from its $71 billion acquisition
of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets.
- Now, family, put on the mouse ears.
You only get one chance to make a first impression.
- [Narrator] Now, Disney is aggressively removing
its top programming from Netflix, but that move means
losing $150 million a year in operating income,
which Disney hopes to recoup
in subscription fees from Disney+.
The challengers will be working hard to get Netflix
on the ropes, (bell dings)
but a big challenge will be making up
for the hundreds of millions of dollars loss
from licensing programs to Netflix.
That means signing up lots of customers
and keeping Wall Street happy,
easier said than done.
(rhythmic hard rock music)

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