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Disney+ Titles Disappear Without Warning, Bringing Confusion To The Streaming Wars

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While there's little doubt that cheaper, more flexible streaming TV options are a definite step up from overpriced cable TV channel bundles, we've noted for a while how there's a problem in the sector it hasn't spent much time thinking about. As companies rush to lock down your favorite content via exclusives, users are increasingly being forced to hunt and peck among rotating catalogs to find the content they're looking for. Want to watch Star Trek? You'll need to subscribe to CBS All Access. Want to watch The Office? You'll need to subscribe to Comcast's streaming service. Friends? You'll need AT&T.




The one two punch of ever shifting licensing deals and exclusives, shared among more than a dozen different services, risks over-complicating finding the content users are looking for. Push this particular idea too far in that direction, and consumers are going to simply pirate -- an ironic outcome to a decade spent trying to migrate pirates to legit streaming alternatives.



Case in point: Disney has done amazing work driving new users to its Disney+ streaming service with low(ish) price point and exclusive programs like The Mandalorian. But users this week began noticing that movies that were on the service just last month are already falling out of rotation, without users being notified that they were disappearing:

"...as 2020 began, some Disney Plus users noticed that a few films had gone missing from the streaming library.


Dr. Dolittle, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Home Alone and Home Alone 2, and The Sandlot are no longer streamable on Disney Plus. All these titles disappeared without warning, and so far, Disney has not commented on the titles.


Many fans are surprised by films dropping off the service, particularly since Disney hasn’t issued press releases about the changes. Where companies like HBO and Netflix put out monthly bulletins of everything coming to and leaving their streaming services each month, so viewers can plan their last-minute binges, Disney has only emphasized new arrivals, not departures.


To be clear this isn't the end of the world, but it does create a level of consumer annoyance that, if driven at too large of a scale, could drive users back to pirating content. Eventually the industry needs to work in collaboration to make it easier to subscribe and unsubscribe from numerous services, track which services you're subscribed to, clearly notify users when content licenses expire, and make it easier to search across multiple platforms to find particularly content.


Ignore the lessons of the past (that piracy is a competitor and a meaningful metric of potential customer dissatisfaction), and the sector is going to relive it. At which point you can easily see the industry blaming everything but its itself ("we gave you everything and you still pirated you ungrateful wretch") for customers who drift back to piracy.



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