For each title, we calculate a Popularity Score, taking into account the total number of views and the length of time the title has been available to viewers in the relevant country. It is expressed as a number between 0 and 100, with the most successful movie in that country receiving a score of 100. Therefore, a movie with a score of 50 is half as popular as the top movie. You can read a full breakdown of how we calculate these scores here.
Disney’s mastery of the Home Entertainment window has long been a cornerstone of its movie revenues. Supply was carefully controlled (films “returned to the Disney vault”), prices were managed to avoid bargain-bin pricing and the marketing stood above even their closest rivals (you never bought a Disney movie, you “took home the magic”).
And so it is perhaps surprising that it took Disney so long to take full advantage of the burgeoning SVOD market. Amazon launched its streaming service in 2006, with Netflix following a year later, whereas Disney didn’t have a global SVOD offering until late 2019 – thirteen years after Amazon.
But Disney+ was not the House of Mouse’s first attempt at monetising its SVOD rights. For a few years, Disney had an exclusive arrangement with Netflix.
The deal agreed in 2012, saw Netflix paying Disney a reported $350 million a year in return for the rights to show new Disney movies during the “Pay TV” window (i.e. after DVD and Blu-Ray releases). Movie deals are agreed far in advance so it wasn’t until September 2016 that Netflix audiences in the US gained access to new Disney movies.
But after less than a year, Disney announced that it was ending the Netflix deal. The lag meant that Netflix had a few years of Disney movies in the pipeline, before losing them entirely by 2019.
This u-turn left industry watchers wondering just how popular Disney movies were on Netflix? How much of a loss did their removal represent?
Disney’s success on Netflix
As luck would have it, our clickstream dataset of audience behaviour overlaps nicely with the Disney/ Netflix deal, meaning that we can know just how popular Disney movies were among Netflix audiences in the US.
In a word – extremely.
So much so, in fact, that Disney movies accounted for eight out of the ten most popular movies on the platform during the period studied, with only Bird Box and the Fyre documentary ruining the clean sweep. Avengers: Infinity War was the most popular movie on Netflix in the US, meaning that it scores 100 out of 100 in our Popularity Score and is the standard by which all other movies are measured.
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