Steaming giant Netflix and corporate powerhouse Disney are ending their business together as Netflix acquires Mark Millar’s company Millarworld. Will more options equal more competition, and thus better options for folks looking to binge-watch their entertainment?For years, Netflix offered subscribers an unparalleled list of shows and movies to view by mail and eventually online streaming. It grew from old sitcoms and classic movies, to groundbreaking and award-winning genre shows. Now Disney wants to start its own streaming service for its Pixar and Star Wars movies. Its uncertain if Disney will allow Netflix to retain rights to the Marvel movies and the Defenders related shows. But what is causing this split after so long?
Netflix is branching out with their own cinematic universe after acquiring Mark Millar’s publishing company Millarworld. Millar, a former A-list name who worked at Marvel comics before starting his own line of series through Marvel’s Icon imprint, and eventually, solely through Image Comics. Each series he releases is immediately scooped up on its movie rights, such as the case of Kick-Ass and Kingsmen: The Secret Service. With such pedigree, its no wonder Netflix brought his company and the rights to future adaptations. Its also no wonder that Disney chose to take the majority of its media out of Netflix’s library and start its own competing streaming service.
It’s telling that when that announcement came, shares in both companies dropped in price. The reason is obvious: together the two companies offered an enticing service, watching Disney, Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar movies under the same format along with Netflix’s original programming was unbeatable. Not even Hulu or Amazon can compare, much as they want to. But who wants to pay money for two separate streaming services? With cable and dish service fees constantly rising, people choose Netflix as an alternative because its cheaper and offers a better service. Despite losing two of Disney’s biggest brands, Netflix has plenty to fall back on even if its investment for Millarworld doesn’t pay off for another five to ten years.
Disney, for all its Brobdingnagian size and endless avenues of cultural touchstones, isn’t immune to its share of setbacks and failures. Disney’s love of sequels and franchises suffered with The BFG, Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Its Disney Infinity game initiative seemed to dry up after its first year. If not for Marvel Entertainment and Star Wars, we would likely be questioning Disney’s future at this point. Perhaps its behemoth size means Disney is too big to fail, but unable to succeed on its own anymore.
We’re so used to comic book companies (Marvel vs DC vs Image) competing for our dollars, or studios vying for our loyalty with their respective interconnected films. The future is what corporations will control those companies and studios, and how they offer their media to us. It’s a larger and more elusive game to follow, like a Game of Thrones plot but with intellectual properties instead of medieval archetypes.
What makes the game move forward, is how well these new services fair competing for our dollars. It’s unclear the market needs four different streaming services, just like it didn’t need six different gaming consoles. I’m personally not sold on a world where I need multiple platforms to watch my favorite shows. Netflix is the name to beat for streaming, just like Disney owns corporate synergy. Twenty years from now, both may look back on this time and wish they had just saved themselves the trouble of fighting what they had.