Since the inception of streaming movies, Netflix has been the industry leader. They essentially popularized the concept when they transitioned their DVD by mail business to stream movies directly to customers’ homes. And since that move began in 2007, they’ve been number one. To some, the word “Netflix” is almost synonymous with streaming, the same way people interchangeably use “tissues” and “Kleenex.”

But the competition for subscribers has grown fiercer and fiercer in recent years, with many new services all fighting for the same customers, including Amazon’s Prime Video, Peacock, Paramount+, and Disney. And when Disney announced its quarterly earnings results to its stockholders this week, it revealed that it had 221.1 million total subscribers across all its various streaming services around the world, including Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. At the end of the same quarter, Netflix had 220.7 million subscribers — meaning that Disney had narrowly pulled ahead of its biggest rival.


Disney also announced it was raising prices for its streaming services, including a $3 per month hike on the main Disney+ subscription. (If you want to maintain the original $7.99 price, you’ll have to start watching your favorite Marvel and Star Wars shows with ads.) Not to be outdone, Netflix recently announced that they will be offering a cheaper, ad-supported tier in the near future as well.

Those big names — Marvel, Star Wars, plus Pixar and others — could account for just how big the Disney streaming behemoth has gotten. The biggest brand name associated with Netflix is ... Netflix. They have some hit series people love, but they don’t really have the kinds of ongoing franchises that Disney uses to keep customers subscribed month after month, year after year.

Whether Netflix makes any tangible moves to counteract that remains to be seen. Regardless, they can no longer claim to be the dominant leader they once were. By some measures they are still in the lead — Netflix makes more money per customer than Disney does, and the degree to which people associate Netflix with streaming video should not be underestimated. But the streaming world is rapidly changing as it expands.

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