Netflix subscribers of the world have until 2019 to get their fix on "Zootopia," "Tarzan," "Lilo & Stitch," and every unknown second and third sequel in the Disney universe. Did you know there was a "Pocahontas II"? Now you do!
And it's going away with Disney to a new world.
Tuesday, Disney announced along with its Q2 earnings that they will be withdrawing from their deal with Netflix, so some of their biggest titles and old Disney Channel shows will disappear from video streaming giant altogether. Enthusiasm for this deal only a year ago was quite high amongst the Disney fanbase, but industry analysts were skeptical that Disney CEO Bob Iger was making the right call.
So, is Disney taking its products and opening up their own shop the best or the worst of capitalism?
The House of Mouse is walling off its content and asking you to add Disney to your growing list of monthly bills on top of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and cable.
Critics of the announcement point to capitalism as the source of this dysfunction and the segmenting of the media landscape. It seems every company is out for themselves. Why not just embrace Netflix's mounting dominance over the streaming marketplace and solidify their place as middleman? The consumer continues to pay $11 a month for Netflix and they get some second-rate Disney films. The companies make some money and everyone goes home happy.
Except for Disney of course.
They may have pocketed $300 million from Netflix for their content, but their movies and shows are in the hands of another company that is amassing power over the market as quickly as they are amassing debt. Netflix has taken AMC and FX under their umbrella only to turn around and pour money into making their own original content on the same platform. Disney became another trophy on their shelf.
Putting aside all of the financial intrigue surrounding the ever-changing entertainment landscape, is this what consumers want? As with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales," no one asked for this.
That's the funny thing about capitalism and free markets, though: sometimes you don't even know you have a problem worth solving.
A good example for today's young parents is access to classic Disney movies. Netflix may carry "Tarzan," but the real childhood nostalgia they long to share comes from "The Lion King," "Beauty & The Beast," and "Aladdin." The good stuff is nowhere to be found on Netflix and absent on demand for leading cable and satellite providers. DVDs? No, thank you.
The details of Disney streaming are still unknown, such as the future of Star Wars and Marvel properties, as well as the cost of the service. One has to imagine it will be comparable to the competition.
Consumer trends today, which are increasingly driven by millennial preferences, are more a la carte in response to the buffet model of entertainment: You pay a larger sum of money for hundreds of channels and shows you never watch but they're all in one place.
Disney sees the writing on the wall and is positioning themselves in the market for the change. People seeking entertainment know what they value and want to pay for just that product at the best price. Netflix at the dawn of the streaming era seemed like a good deal, but now with all the competition out there, it's worth asking if Netflix––as self-appointed middleman––is the ideal.
Disney doesn't seem to think so. A company like Disney is a brand and you can expect certain kinds of products from a brand you know and trust. Maybe Bob Iger doesn't like seeing "Star Wars" and "Zootopia" on lists next to "Shameless" and "True Blood." Before yesterday, I didn't realize that I wanted a Disney or ESPN streaming service. But now, presented with their vision, I see it's exactly what I want.
Capitalism in its purest form offers consumers a product they value enough to voluntarily support with their dollars. It requires a focus on improving people's lives, sometimes in ways they didn't even anticipate. In thinking about the prospect of one more monthly bill in exchange for the entire Disney movie vault, television shows, and new original programming that I can expect will be of the highest quality, I am only left with a smile.
So maybe Disney hasn't changed that much after all, and maybe capitalism is to thank for it.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.