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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(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) Pivot! - [Narrator] The last challenger? Disney. 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)