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Netflix Losing Disney and Pixar Movies: No Big Deal?

Will Netflix suffer a significant subscriber exodus once Disney movies roll off the service in 2019? According to one Wall Street firm’s analysis: probably not.

Disney announced last week that it would not renew the movie-output deal with Netflix for first-run Disney and Pixar titles in the U.S. — and instead would launch its own Disney-branded streaming service starting with 2019 releases. That sent Netflix shares tumbling, as investors feared the move represented a growing sentiment by Hollywood studios to not play ball with the disruptive internet player.

But while the Disney deal appears to be a high-profile loss, it should have minimal effect on total subscriber churn, according to Piper Jaffray & Co. analysts Michael Olson and Yung Kim. They conducted a survey of 538 Netflix U.S. customers last week, and found that only one-fifth spend more than 10% of the total Netflix viewing time watching Disney content.

“We believe essentially none of the other 80% of subs, who spend 10% or less of their time on Netflix watching Disney, will be compelled to cancel due to loss of Disney content,” the analysts wrote. The only subgroup that may be at risk of bailing on Netflix over the absence of Disney movies are those who said at least 40% of their Netflix time is allocated to Mouse House titles — which are less than 5% of all streaming customers.

“We recognize the strength of [the Disney] content, particularly for younger children,” the analysts wrote in a research note Monday. “However, we believe Netflix can license similar genre content from other sources and/or use the cost savings for original programming.”

Netflix pays about $200 million per year to Disney, analysts estimate. That may sound like a lot, but it’s only around 3% of Netflix’s total projected content budget of $7 billion for 2018.

Meanwhile, Netflix may reach a deal with Disney about for Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars” and Marvel Entertainment titles post-2019: Chief content officer Ted Sarandos, in an interview with Reuters, said the company is in active discussions for those rights.

And even as Netflix has either lost or abandoned licensing deals (as when it dropped Epix movies in 2015), it’s spending more and more on original productions. That includes the bombshell deal with Shonda Rhimes — ending her 15-year partnership with Disney-owned ABC Studios — that Netflix just announced, and its acquisition of Millarworld, the comic-book publisher behind “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman.” The company is targeting 50% of its spending to go toward originals in the next few years, versus around 20% in 2016.

“Netflix is likely already in the process of determining how to effectively reallocate funds previously earmarked for Disney on new and unique programming,” the Piper Jaffray analysts wrote, noting that it has almost 18 months to plan for the change.

Pictured above: Pixar’s “Finding Dory”

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