When Disney+ was getting prepared to launch, the Walt Disney Company executives had a vision of their new streaming service, that it would represent the Disney brand and only contain content that the whole family could enjoy. This meant that nothing rated more than a TV-14 or PG-13 would be available on the streaming service.

This decision also fitted into Disney’s strategy to boost its Hulu streaming service, splitting its content into two silos. Hulu would get the mature content from ABC, 20th Century and FX, while Disney+ would get everything else that was family-friendly.

While this decision saw Disney+ become a massive success out of the block, with Disney+ gaining a huge boost in subscribers, but things have since started to become a little more rocky.

One of the biggest complaints about Disney+ in the United States is that it’s not offering enough content to keep adult subscribers engaged, who only have a limited number of series and films aimed at those above the age of 13. While Marvel and Star Wars are enormous draws for Disney+, in reality, if you’re looking for any drama series on Disney+ that isn’t from those two brands, you’ve only got basically two choices “Once Upon A Time” and “The Right Stuff”. They’ve positioned Disney+ into essentially a babysitting service, with hundreds of Disney Channel shows and a massive collection of films.

Recently, subscriber growth in the United States has stalled. Last week the Walt Disney Companies stock dropped over 7%, which has set Disney executives into a frenzy, trying to work out how to fix the problem as they’ve realised that they are going to have to change that strategy in order to engage with more subscribers, who are either unsubscribing once the latest Marvel or Star Wars series ends or just feel there is nothing for them to watch.

According to a report from entertainment reporter Dylan Byers, there is a heated debate going on at Disney’s headquarters in Burbank about whether to stick to core family-friendly Disney content or widen the aperture to bring in more subscriptions with more content for teenagers and adults.

Multiple insiders, including current and former executives, are apparently saying that this is the main question being asked right now.

Streaming data analyst Julia Alexander has said, that the big question among Disney observers these days is, “How can Disney+ continue growing beyond the families who subscribe for kids… and the Star Wars or Marvel diehards…?” The solution is to add more general entertainment that “would greatly expand what subscribers and potential customers think Disney+ is offering, and widen the customer base that Disney+ can attract.”

Apparently, it is Bob Iger who “insisted on sticking to the narrow definition,”. In contrast, Bob Chapek “intends to expand it,” but the anxiety among some insiders is that the famously data-driven Chapek lacks the creative vision to do it the right way. “Notice that Netflix spends insane amounts and makes a ton of crap,” the source said. “A handful of phenom hits in a giant pile of crud.” Is that what Disney wants for Disney+?

This decision is strange because this problem with Disney+ is currently only happening for those subscribers in the United States and Latin America.

Because Disney+ already has a massive selection of shows aimed at teenagers and adults, as last February, Disney introduced the general entertainment brand, Star, into Disney+ worldwide. Adding mature content like “Family Guy”, “Deadpool”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “The Walking Dead” onto Disney+, which has been a huge success, increasing subscriptions and reducing churn (how many people unsubscribe).

Disney+ launched in South Korea and Taiwan last week and launches in Hong Kong later today, with the Star brand.  Disney has already abandoned this idea of a “narrow definition” internationally, because one single streaming service works.

The data from countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and Australia have shown that one platform with more content is working.  Internationally, Disney+ keeps growing, while in the US, growth has slowed down because it has become dependent on Marvel and Star Wars shows to get new subscribers.

Personally, whenever the question of adding mature content into Disney+ is brought up in our Facebook Group, there is a split between subscribers in the US.  Some parents like having Disney+ as something they can pop their children in front of, without any worry.  Some parents even become enraged when there is a single swear word, or any intimacy between people, in content added onto Disney+. Still, many other members say they either only keep subscribed for their kids or just will resubscribe when Marvel and Star Wars shows are being released.

Every time this topic is brought up, one thing is mentioned is, “that’s what Hulu’s for”.  Because Disney has pushed the “Disney Bundle”, many US subscribers have accepted that Disney has split its content into two silos and they should never mix.

Internationally, Disney+ isn’t seen in the same light. Like every other streaming service available, it has parental controls that stop younger viewers from watching mature content.

There are other issues with Hulu, since Comcast still owns 33%, so there are issues that Disney might have problems with.  Sharing content or moving more content over to Disney+ might cause people to question why they need Hulu.  Disney and Comcast currently have a deal in place that means they can force one another to have Disney buy out Comcast’s shares in 2024.

The idea that Disney+ has to have this “narrow definition” of family-friendly content was created years ago and has already been abandoned around the world and shown to work.  You only have to look at the difference every week in what the UK gets on Disney+ compared to the US.

During Disney+ Day, several new series and films were announced for the streaming service.  But once again, this drew criticism that except for Marvel shows, there wasn’t anything for older audiences above the age of 13.

This narrow definition has become so narrow, but Disney has a massive collection of films and shows that it could add to Disney+ in the United States, which could fit into the current structure, such as shows that are about modern families like:

  • The Wonder Years
  • Modern Family
  • Blackish
  • Mixedish
  • Malcolm In The Middle
  • Family Guy
  • According To Jim
  • The Golden Girls
  • Glee
  • Last Man Standing

At one time, Disney+ was the golden streaming service of Wall Street, but now, Disney+ has lost that shine.

Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek has already said that the “Disney Streaming Bundle” isn’t ideal and is open to change.  Hopefully, those changes will come sooner rather than later, because the weaknesses in Disney+ are becoming apparent to everyone, especially when they’ve already fixed the issue internationally.

Do you think Disney+ needs to grow up in the US?

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: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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  1. Mahksalk November 15, 2021

    All disney plus needs internationally is a sports brand now

  2. Ben Malsky November 15, 2021

    Are you saying that adults can’t or enjoy the content on Disney Plus?! I really hate it when people say that it’s “only for kids”. It’s perfectly okay for adults to enjoy all the content on Disney Plus no matter what age they are. Even those who aren’t die-hards can still love and enjoy say for instance the Pixar films no matter how old they are. Why don’t people admit that people subscribe to Disney Plus regardless of ratings and just want to see something they like?

    1. Roger Palmer November 15, 2021

      Its not about saying adults can't enjoy Disney+.... I know I do... But....there are a lot of adults/teenagers who would like to watch more on Disney+.... It's not really a case of one or the other, why not both?!

    2. ScionStorm November 16, 2021

      You don't get it at all. Disney+ is not a well rounded family streaming services. Most of what it releases each month come from Disney Junior or Nat Geo. They aren't even doing much legacy content so nostalgia audiences have moved on. No one is saying you can't like what's already there if you are older. The point is that it simply isn't enough. The age range it caters to isn't diverse enough.

    3. Josh Morin November 16, 2021

      As a 20 year old I can confirm that I dropped my D+ subscription because of it's lack of adult shows. Yes I do enjoy some of their Marvel and Star Wars shows but that is literally all. I use other services like Prime, Hulu, and Netflix to watch more TV-14-TV-MA shows. I'm not always in the mood to watch TV-14 though, which is the current limit of D+ in the US. If Disney added TV-MA shows or other TV-14 shows I would consider resubscribing.

  3. Ben Malsky November 15, 2021

    You know the thing about “family-friendly” content wether it’s films or games is that there are no laws, no rules, no restrictions on what they can or can’t watch or play or like. So what if Star isn’t on Disney Plus in the US yet, if you’re over the age of 13 and love Disney’s library or just want to watch a quality film or show, go ahead and enjoy it and subscribe on your own terms no matter what anyone says.

  4. nerdrage November 15, 2021

    The Comcast deal is the holdup in North America (maybe Latin America too). Disney didn't want to have to pay off Comcast early, no doubt at a premium (since Comcast would have leverage if Disney is the initiator), but with American subscribers cancelling and the share price swooning, what choice do they have? They can't let subscribers hemorrhage till 2024. Streaming is measured in dog years.

  5. Scott November 15, 2021

    Yes I agree Disney plus should get more family friendly content in the us.

  6. Sheldon November 16, 2021

    No I think that the states have more then enough choices them anyone else in the world so they should just stop their blubbering NC I have it just for the main reasons in your story n prime for everything else

  7. Dennng November 16, 2021

    Canadian here. Having the adult and fox content is great. Just like Netflix and Prime you can password protect the adult content away from your kids profile. Works great. I am all for protecting the disney brand but this is disney+ the + should mean acces to more than just disney. Everything that is great about disney plus Eisner did this with Touchstone. Pretty Woman is one of the greatest comedies of all time but I think we all agree should be branded as disney.