Dan Howdle | March 6th, 2023
November 2019 was a busy month for streaming services. With Apple TV+ launching first and Disney+ just days later, the race was on for which will be the streaming service to contest Netflix’s streaming crown. And, spoiler alert, they’re both doing fantastic. But more on that later.
Unlike Apple TV+, which launched with a mere handful of shows, Disney+ started with 500 films and 7,000 television episodes, with about 500 being added every year. So there’s no chance you’ll ever run out of content to watch. More than that, Disney+’s main strength is the outstanding library of primarily high-quality original content coming from the Walt Disney Studios.
Even though Disney+’s launch was plagued by technical issues, the platform was well received and managed to bring in users very quickly, both because of the extensive Disney library but also because of the affordable price, especially compared to Netflix.
Single-tier subscription – Disney+ offers a simple subscription, without multiple confusing tiers, that grants you access to all its exclusive originals in 4K (UHD) with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound on up to four simultaneous devices. In other words, just like Apple, Disney is going directly after Netflix’s most premium subscription and is doing so at a fraction of the price.
Multiple secure user profiles – Disney+ allows you to create up to seven different user profiles, each with a separate PIN that ensures your viewing history is entirely private. More than that, unlike Netflix, Disney+ doesn’t log you out of your profile every time you start the app and doesn’t log you out of your account once every few days. You can actually simply start the app and begin watching content.
Parental controls – Disney knows who its target audience is, so it’s no surprise Disney+ offers one of the most robust parental control functionalities out there. You can set up a Kids Profile which only features content appropriate for all ages. To ensure that the kids actually stay on the Kids Profile, you can set up PINs for the other profiles or enable the ‘Kid-Proof Exit’, which is a simple mathematical challenge meant to keep very young kids from exiting their profiles. Alternatively, you can set up a standard profile and enable content rating, which offers you no fewer than seven age tiers of content: 0+, 6+, 9+, 12+, 14+, 16+ and 18+.
Available as an add-on or in a bundle – While Disney+ used to offer a free seven-day trial at launch, that has now been deprecated. However, Disney has learned from its competitors and has started bundling Disney+ subscriptions with other services and devices. We’ve written in the past about how Vodafone bundles its premium broadband packages with three months of free Apple TV+, while Sky’s Glass TV service comes with Netflix fully included. In the same way, O2 bundles many of its plans with up to 6 months of free Disney+. Or you can simply add Disney+ to your O2 monthly bill and get a £2 monthly discount.
Just like buying most Apple devices comes with up to 12 months of free Apple TV+, you can grab up to one year of free Disney+ when purchasing Samsung Galaxy S and Z smartphones and tablets.
There is a wide variety of content available to watch on Disney+, but undoubtedly, the best is Disney’s original content. That is why the service is built around content from all of the production studios that form the Walt Disney Studios. In fact, the very first thing you’ll see on the Disney+ homepage is the six hubs: Disney (Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney Animation Studios), Pixar (Pixar Animation Studios), Marvel (Marvel Studios), StarWars (Lucasfilm), Star (20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures, formerly 21st Century Studios) and National Geographic.
Disney hub – Contains great drama productions like Maleficent (an inversion of the beloved story of Sleeping Beauty), Lion King (the old story, but now with outstanding CGI), Prince of Persia and Pirates of the Caribbean. In addition to what, you get stunning animations, from new ones like Frozen (a combination of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty), Tangled (Cinderella 2.0), Brave (Robin Hood, but Scottish and with magic), Chip ‘n’ Dale: Park Life, all the way to the old classics (X-Men, Tarzan, The Lion King).
Pixar hub – The experts in computer animation merged with Disney back in 2006 and continue to bring you fantastic animations like Luca, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Toy Story, Cars and Finding Nemo. As well as the full-length animated movies, the Pixar hub is also home to a generous array of shorts, including one-offs such as Bao and Lava, as well as entire series including Cars on the Road, Forky Asks a Question, and Dug Days, featuring the dog from Up!
Marvel hub – Fans of the Marvel Universe will find hours of entertainment here. As well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, you will also find spinoff series including Agent Carter, Loki, Hawkeye, She Hulk and Ms Marvel, and series of shorts including I am Groot and Marvel One Shot. There is even what’s titled as Marvel Legacy Animation, a nostalgic collection of early Marvel cartoons, including Spiderman and the Silver Surfer.
Star Wars hub – features great new content like the Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Mandalorian TV series, alongside the almost a dozen Star Wars main movies, their numerous spin-offs (Solo), and several animations (The Bad Batch, Clone Wars, Rebels, Forces of Destiny, Resistance) and several Lego-style shorts (All Stars, The Freemaker Adventurers).
Star hub – brings some great productions into the Disney “eco-system”. It includes science fiction (Avatar), horror (The Omen, American Horror Stories), Drama (Ghost Whisperer, 911), LGBT+ content (Love, Victor), comedy (What We Do In The Shadows, How I Met Your Father), action movies (The Three Musketeers, The Princess) and numerous historical films (Kingdom of Heaven, The Iron Lady).
National Geographic hub – a joint venture between Disney and the US National Geographic Society. This includes numerous award-winning documentaries about the natural world, like Lost on Everest, Shark Beach (only one of the many-many documentaries about sharks that Disney apparently has) and biographies like Free Solo and Fauci. The hub goes on with content on climate change (Before the Flood, From the Ashes) as well as modern history documentaries (Narco Wars, Inside North Korea, Biggest Oil Spill of the Century). And we’ve left the best for last: Built for Mars, the story of the Mars Perseverance Rover, Apollo, the story of the moon landings, and then way more Mars content.
Disney+ clearly prioritises high-quality streaming and, as we noted above, all image quality profiles are included in the single-tiered subscription. This includes Full HD and 4K Ultra HD video resolution. The platform also offers HDR (High-Dynamic Range) for enhanced image brightness and a much broader range of colours; together, they create that much-sought-after vivid colours image appearance. In that sense, Disney+ features both the widely supported HDR10 standard, as well as the more premium Dolby Vision standard.
One of the unique things about Disney+ is its support for IMAX Enhanced cinematic aspect ratio, which enables viewers to watch Marvel movies in the way they were filmed. By using an expanded aspect ratio of 1.90:1, viewers will see up to 26% more of the original image, enabling them to see the full scale and scope of the picture.
The minimum broadband speed for Disney+ content is 5Mbps, but that will only take you up to HD (720p) resolution. For the full 4K UHD experience, Disney requires a minimum of 25Mbps.
There is hardly a place where you cannot watch Disney+. Let’s go through the list:
Disney+ also supports AirPlay streaming and Plex integration.
The short story is that Disney+ is great. And Brits seem to agree. Apple TV+ content has been rated the best on any streaming platform by IMDB users, followed in second place by Disney+, and Netflix the third. And while Apple TV+ experienced the fastest growth of any UK streaming platform, Disney+ brought in the most new users. In fact, the most popular app on the Apple TV is Disney+. There is a clear desire for new high-quality, high-production content.
Disney+ is not just great, but it’s also affordable, sitting mid-way between competitors Netflix and Apple. As we’ve mentioned above, if you box clever there are even a fair few ways to get a free or discounted Disney+ subscription, bundled up with a TV or mobile deal.