Disney+ Must Tweak Its Content Strategy. Here’s How

Disney+ Must Tweak Its Content Strategy.
Yinchen Niu/Variety Intelligence Platform

In this article

  • Survey reveals how the streaming service’s users feel about its volume of films, TV shows
  • Watchers seek more adult-oriented fare to balance out kid-centric programming
  • Hulu-Disney+ content integration? There’s subscriber appetite for that

There’s plenty of agita in Burbank right about now, with Disney stock plummeting in November after its flagship streaming service, Disney+, posted its slowest quarter-over-quarter sub growth since launch last month. What’s worse: Disney management conceded that pandemic-induced production slowdowns will keep content output from ramping up until the second half of the year. 

But the company also disclosed in a filing last week that it’s ready to ratchet up content spending in fiscal year 2022 across all of its streaming services, to $33 billion. That $8 billion boost will surely benefit Disney+, but it also raises the question of exactly how that money is best spent.  

Listening to how Disney+ users perceive the streaming service’s strengths and weaknesses is a good place to start. Whip Media conducted a survey of its U.S. TV Time app users age 13+ exclusively for VIP+ on Nov. 19-20, discovering that while content output isn’t perceived as a shortcoming for Disney+, there is an appetite for more adult-centric content and integration with Hulu. 

Whip Media helps entertainment companies like NBCU, Paramount and Discovery make decisions around distributing and monetizing their content through data gathered from its products like TV Time, an app with between 800,000 and 1,000,000 daily users that indicate what they’ve watched and plan on watching.  

Over 96% of respondents (or 696 TV Time app users) said they had used Disney+ before; the remainder of this article reflects the attitudes of these consumers and refers to them simply as “survey respondents.” 

Nearly 53% of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that Disney+ has enough content to keep them entertained daily, despite Marvel shows like “Hawkeye” not being released on a consistent basis. 

Over 20% of survey respondents did say that they disagreed in some manner with the idea that Disney+ was something that could be entertaining daily — suggesting a not-immaterial number of current Disney+ customers may mostly gravitate toward the service when a new Marvel TV series is rolling out or when a marquee film like “Black Widow” or “Cruella” becomes free to view. 

VIP+ last week analyzed other exclusive survey data from Whip Media, which suggested that Marvel TV series are a major Disney+ subscriber pull. 

One way to win over these consumers who don’t view Disney+ as a daily must-use could be to expand the type of content offered on it. 

The Information reported in late November that Disney is considering developing more Disney+ shows that appeal to adults with kids (internally referred to as “Awoks”). Puck also separately reported some Disney executives believe Disney+ should broaden its programming to appeal to adults. 

Whip Media’s data backs up the hunches of Disney executives looking for programming strategy change at Disney+. Slightly over 63% of survey respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed with the notion that they’d watch Disney+ more often if it offered more content targeted at adults. 

Disney doesn’t even necessarily have to start from scratch in its adult-targeting initiative, should it decide to embark on such. The company could always experiment with making select Hulu originals available on Disney+, for example. 

After all, a little more than 50% of survey respondents said that they’d watch Disney+ more if it included free access to Hulu originals like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Solar Opposites,” which are both rated TV-MA. 

During Disney’s fiscal Q3 2021 earnings call, CEO Bob Chapek suggested he wasn’t opposed to eventually merging his company’s various SVOD platforms, so this type of Hulu-Disney+ commingling doesn’t seem so farfetched. 

This commingling would help Disney+ shore up gaps in its content portfolio. During the Nov. 12 Disney+ Day event, held to mark the two-year anniversary of Disney’s eponymous streamer, most of the content announcements (like TV spinoffs of “The Princess and the Frog” and “Hawkeye”) that were made still felt aimed at being family-friendly.