As audiences’ viewing habits continue to evolve, new trends begin to take hold. While the streaming wars have been primarily focused on Netflix’s growth and the death of cable, YouTube has been quietly making massive movies available on people’s TVs.

Many think of YouTube as just something you might watch on your phone, but more and more people (including myself) watch a lot of YouTube on their main televisions.  Throw in the success of YouTube TV, which is the largest cable-lite television provider in the US, and now, the platform that is known best for hosting user-generated content now has almost 10% of all television viewing in the US.

This is causing much dismay among executives at studios like Disney, with different strategies coming into play.  Some are ignoring the situation, while Disney is trying to engage with younger audiences by making many of its shows from Disney Jr and the Disney Channel available on YouTube.   Generally, Disney still treats YouTube as a promotional platform, with trailers, clips, featurettes, and interviews.  But it has tried making more expensive shows specifically for YouTube, like “Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge”, and for a while, there was a number of exclusive Disney+ themed shows released weekly on YouTube; however, due to the costs, these have all been cancelled. 

But that’s not all; according to CNBC, Disney executives regularly discuss YouTube “every day” in strategic meetings and have considered adding user-generated content to Disney+, though it’s not on the immediate roadmap, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

The idea of adding user-generated content onto Disney+ would be a difficult situation for the streaming service, while it would allow a huge amount of content to be available within the app, generating more views, engagement and advertising money, there are lots of risks.

Disney, unlike YouTube, is very reliant on its brand name and recognition. So, having content that wasn’t hand-picked by the studio for the streaming service would put that at risk if something inappropriate was added.

Disney recently added the Hulu hub to Disney+, and it requires mature content to be rated, which would fit in with the parental control system. Allowing anyone to upload to Disney+ would likely be a nightmare to control, as people could upload movies and shows from other studios or add inappropriate content. 

Some other considerations must be taken into account, as user-generated content would drastically outweigh the high-quality content available on the platform.

But there are some advantages to opening up Disney+ to user-generated content, as Disney could still cherry-pick the best of anything submitted, giving a more curated lineup of content. “Mr Beast” could be a perfect example of user-generated content of a high enough quality to entertain audiences on Disney+.

Currently, there are a number of high-quality shows aimed at children, which originally debuted on YouTube, including “Blippi”, “Kids Diana Show” and “Morphle”, before larger companies picked them up and started distributing them on other platforms. Many of these shows are regularly trending on Disney+ in the United States, highlighting why Disney might be interested in exploring this future.    Disney’s ESPN has also had success bringing the “Pat McAfee Show” from YouTube onto the sports network, highlighting that it can be done (though that’s also had some bad publicity on occasions).

Amazon Prime Video also offers a program that allows users to submit videos for the platform, though it does curate what’s available to maintain high standards.

Apparently, Disney executives are very aware of YouTube’s rising dominance, especially for younger people. There is also lots of other content on YouTube that could be suitable for the platform, as many creators make content about Disney’s parks, rides and merchandise, movies, and TV shows. It’s been considered that integrating some of that content as shoulder programming to Disney’s scripted series and movies could help keep users on Disney+.

However, as a Disney theme content creator myself, one thing I’m very much aware of is how Disney isn’t going to want videos of vloggers at Walt Disney World bashing the wait times for the newest ride or having TV reviewers talking about how bad the latest Disney+ series is.

Roger’s Take: I think the idea of user-generated content being added into Disney+ sounds like a public relations disaster waiting to happen. However, that shouldn’t stop Disney from reaching out and licensing more content from alternative sources to provide more options to subscribers. Disney needs to make sure it stands out as the home of high-quality entertainment. Going down the route of using user-generated content feels like some executives are just looking at the cost of making shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” or “WandaVision”, then looking at a popular YouTube video of someone opening a box or doing a makeup tutorial and thinking, let’s do that because its cheaper.     Copying YouTube isn’t going to work, but I don’t think there’s any harm in pulling out some of the golden nuggets to keep subscribers entertained.

Do you think Disney+ should add user-generated content?  Let me know on social media!

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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Twitter: Facebook:

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