When Disney+ launched in 2019, it aimed to be a four-quadrant streaming service, which basically means it appeals to everyone. However, the platform quickly became known as a babysitting service with Marvel and Star Wars content!   

Since that initial release, we’ve seen Disney+ make changes to improve its perception and to reach more audiences, though it has been able to expand more internationally with the use of its general entertainment studios, in the US, it’s been, up until the launch of Hulu On Disney+, only offering family-friendly content, which doesn’t connect with everyone.

According to new US data from Samba TV, Netflix continues to be the most popular streaming service for Gen Z, who are people born between 1997 and 2012 (aka between 14 and 26 years old). 

Unfortunately for Disney, there is still a huge gap between Netflix and the other streaming services. The data indicates that Gen-Z spends 59% of their streaming time on Netflix, compared to 5% for Disney+ and 4% for Hulu. Even combined, this is only 9%, which is the same as Amazon and slightly behind Max at 11%.  

This also doesn’t take into account how much time Gen Z spends on other platforms, as according to Deloitte, this generation prefer to watch social video and live streams (47%) about twice as much as TV shows (24%) and four times as much as movies (11%). 

One issue with this data about Gen Z is that there is a huge difference in tastes between a 26-year-old and a 14-year-old in entertainment. More importantly, there are probably very few 14-year-olds actually paying for Netflix or Disney+.

Also, many of Disney’s latest movies and shows often pull on nostalgia, which a teenager generally isn’t going to respond to either. Plus, older Gen Z viewers will also have a very different view on movies and shows, since they’ve grown up with the Disney era of Marvel and Star Wars.

All the different streaming services compete not just with one another but also for attention from video games, social media, and other forms of entertainment. Gen Alpha, aka those born since 2012, is probably going to be even harder for Disney to reach, as they’ll be growing up in an era of even more social media and alternative platforms.    

These changes aren’t just impacting streaming services; linear television and cinema attendance are also in decline as attentions become increasingly splintered.   

Disney is going to need to change its strategy for reaching younger audiences, which is one major reason why Disney has heavily invested in Epic Games, which makes Fortnite and, more importantly, bringing ESPN and Hulu content within Disney+ will broaden its reach to more people of all ages.  Disney is also targeting more international originals that younger audiences are interacting with, like K-dramas and Anime. 

Banking on nostalgia isn’t going to work on generations growing up in the future, so Disney needs to find new ways and content to reach its new and potential new customers.    Netflix’s content is resonating with Gen Z, and Disney needs to work out how to reach that audience better.  I can’t imagine many teenagers or those in their early twenties being that interested in the latest “Bluey” or “Doctor Who” episodes when they’ve got more entertaining shows like “Bridgeton”, “Heartstopper” or “Sex Education” to watch. 

Roger’s Take: It doesn’t come as a huge surprise to see Gen Z are watching less Disney+ than other generations. Especially since Disney+ in the United States has generally been focused on shows for younger audiences or fans of Marvel/Star Wars. And while Hulu has lots of content aimed at a general audience, many of its shows are more popular with older audiences, especially from linear networks like FOX/ABC, which might not connect as well with teenagers.  It often feels like Disney is making shows for teenagers that existed fifty years ago, rather than modern young adults, who won’t put up with generic shows like “Doogie Kamealoha MD” or “Big Shot”, which don’t reflect the world they live in.   Disney needs to do much better at reaching young adult audiences.

What do you think Disney+ needs to do to appeal to more Gen Z viewers?  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: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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