Your guide to a better future
We take a look at how these two go-to platforms compare.
Kourtnee covers TV streaming services and home entertainment news at CNET. She previously worked as an entertainment reporter at Showbiz Cheat Sheet where she wrote about film, television, music, and celebrities, and streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and HBO Max.
Streaming services like , and have commanded our attention this year for their content and prices. But if you’ve been feeling the these last few months, there’s probably a good chance you’ve put your subscriptions under the microscope. Do you really need them all right now?
Netflix surprised us with a price hike in early 2022, and just added a . Amid show cancellations and the , some people are considering canceling their accounts. Disney Plus provides high-quality content that’s on par with Netflix, and its low cost makes it stiff competition. It’s also , but at this moment, how do these two streaming giants compare in content and value?
Both services have spawned huge pop-culture hits, as seen with The Mandalorian and Stranger Things. During 2021, Disney Plus and Netflix had the most popular streaming content of the year, according to Nielsen. Both carry family-friendly gems, superhero stories, documentaries and feature films with A-list talent.
You may be a longtime Netflix subscriber or only keep Disney Plus for your kids, and you’ve found a groove with all the streaming platforms you use. However, if you’re someone who’s weighing costs against which service to keep, here’s guidance on how to choose.
Netflix can be credited with kicking off the streaming wars back in 2007. Since then, the streaming pioneer has increased its subscription prices and launched a cheaper tier with ads. But Netflix continues to lean into originals while providing a range of licensed TV shows and movies. Its interface makes it easy to sift through content based on genre, popularity or age.
Read our Netflix review.
Disney Plus rises to the top with its family-friendly stable of movies and shows. At $8 a month, it’s a bargain for anyone who loves all things Disney, Marvel, Pixar and National Geographic. Viewers can find entertaining and educational content that spans nearly ten decades.
Read our Disney Plus review.
Disney Plus wins the streaming wars price competition, even when its subscription prices change on Dec. 8. The straightforward $8 per month plan includes 4K streaming, Imax capabilities and four simultaneous streams. You can also download available titles on up to 10 devices. It has Netflix beat.
Once December comes, this basic plan will include ads, but if you want to watch ad-free, you’ll have to pay $11 per month for Disney Plus Premium. That’s still less than Netflix. Hulu and ESPN Plus can be tacked on to your Disney Plus subscription as part of the Disney Bundle. If you sign up for the package now, you can get all three services for $14 a month.
Netflix’s Basic with Ads plan costs $7 per month, and does not include its full catalog. And though you can watch in HD, you only get one stream at a time and without downloads. The $10 basic version nets you one stream, HD quality and only one device for downloads. Its most popular premium option now sits at $15.50 per month with two simultaneous screens or devices and HD. Like Disney Plus, Netflix offers four simultaneous streams and 4K, but you need the $20 premium plan for that.
Netflix and Disney Plus have megahits in their lineups but they each handle original releases in their own ways. Disney Plus taps into legacy properties and existing franchises without really lighting a match on anything that’s totally new. This approach works against Disney when viewers must wait for the streamer to drop something fresh. While shows like Loki and Andor have been high-quality successes, they’re connected to larger cinematic universes. And unlike Netflix, there aren’t many original movies dropping on the platform.
While there is a batch of originals in the works that includes a new prom movie, reality shows from Marvel stars, and plenty of live-action book adaptations, the timetable for projects is long. Most future releases in the Disney Plus pipeline revolve around old commodities, including spin-offs from Moana and Star Wars. Fans get excited for exclusive Disney Plus content, but these releases aren’t added on a regular basis.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find anything good to stream from Marvel, NatGeo or any other brand in the Disney family. It’s the only place you can watch Obi-Wan Kenobi, Encanto and Moon Knight. And Disney Plus gets credit for its organized Originals tab layout, which divides everything into five categories.
On the other hand, Netflix’s originals ain’t nothing to scoff at. Aside from the now-legendary Stranger Things, the platform has embedded a string of original series and films into pop culture like Squid Game, Money Heist and Dahmer. That doesn’t mean Netflix skips over reboots, remakes or adaptations. Whether it’s a book adaptation like Bridgerton, or Fuller House or Lucifer, they’re all originals based on existing properties.
But there’s a constant rotation of content. It’s easy to find a list of Netflix’s new original releases for each month — and year. Whether it’s a film, reality show, or much-hyped upcoming season of a popular series, Netflix has a steady flux of originals that subscribers can count on every week.
Read more: Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4: The Full List of Release Dates
When it comes to the range of content on each platform, you can’t dispute Disney’s collection of movies and shows for kids. Its catalog contains nearly 100 years’ worth of goodies and was crafted with young imaginations in mind. That said, every series and film on Disney Plus stands firm on that legacy of crafting family-oriented content. It’s paradise for kids and a home run on nostalgia for adults. But Disney Plus has some gaps for adults, while Netflix has a balance.
Generally, nothing beyond TV-14 or PG-13 has been on the Disney service. With the addition of Marvel’s TV series that it scooped up from Netflix, Disney Plus gave adults a taste of more mature titles with Luke Cage, The Punisher, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And its Werewolf by Night film brought adult-level horror to the MCU — and Disney.
Still, it may not be enough to hold your attention if you’re in the mood for something gritty and fresh. Disney Plus has a hefty selection of documentaries, TV shows, animated tales and blockbuster movies, and there are approximately a little over 1,200 pieces of content, total. Most of it comes from a Disney-owned network or studio like ABC, Pixar or Marvel.
Meanwhile, Netflix reportedly has roughly 6,000 movies and TV series on its platform. It offers a well-stocked cabinet of original and licensed fare for kids of all ages, but also something for every genre. In addition to checking out its homegrown creations, you can watch content from the CW, Fox, Universal Pictures, Showtime, USA and more.
Catch anime, preschool hits, rom-coms, horror flicks and just about anything else on Netflix. Because maturity ratings range from G to NC-17, whole families can watch certain content together or adults can stream all the violence, dark comedy or romance they want.
Disney Plus debuted its extensive catalog at launch in 2019, and continues to grow by adding films and TV shows — whether they’re fresh or straight from the old vault. When it comes to new TV series episodes, they premiere weekly on the streamer, much like traditional networks. The strategy has paid off by building anticipation for the next weekly installment. Invested viewers keep up with their favorite shows’ schedules and tune in to see if their fan theories are valid.
While you can binge-watch older shows on Disney Plus, this is Netflix’s specialty. Fans are known to plan their binge schedules around the release dates for popular shows such as The Witcher and Bridgerton. Some of its original reality shows air weekly episodes, and recently, the streaming service has been splitting its big series’ seasons in half, debuting them months apart. However, Netflix generally sticks to a content-dump format so you can absorb all episodes at once. And those jaw-dropping cliffhangers are typically reserved for season finales, ensuring you tune in for the next binge session.
Disney Plus sits on a treasure trove of old and new programming, and its decision to give subscribers access to Hulu and ESPN Plus with the Disney Bundle offers added value. It wins with pricing. However, the streamer’s selection of content is aimed at kids, families and franchise fans. As far as catalog depth, quality and interface, the platform is on fairly equal footing with Netflix.
If you can afford both, go for it, as it will be difficult to run out of things to watch across all genres and age ranges. But if you can only choose one, we’d lean toward Netflix based on its rotating stable of originals and its global selection for audiences of any age or background.