The disappointment reflected on social media over the weekend, in the wake of the launch of streaming service Disney+ in Israel, is somewhat exaggerated but not entirely unjustified. Israelis are always quick to make comparisons with services overseas and the truth is that the app launched in Israel is indeed not of the same quality as the app in North America and Europe.
Some of the features available abroad are lacking, and the content is also a little less rich. There have also been faults, with some viewers reporting over the weekend that the app would get stuck, causing movies to return to the start. Some of these flaws can be put down to the teething problems of the launch but the harsh criticism vented by some of the most avid fans of Disney+ is understandable.
But the story is not all bad. The Disney+ app is still one of the best apps on the market and a worthy rival of Netflix. The fact that tens of thousands of viewers in Israel signed up for the service over the weekend alone speaks for itself, although we will only know the accurate numbers when Yes issues its second quarter financial results.
We are perhaps talking about initial enthusiasm spurred on by the big buzz around the launch of Disney+, so that it is difficult to tell yet what market share the new service will capture, but both Yes and Disney+ are currently expressing satisfaction over the number of subscribers.
Disney+ actually has two different apps that each serve roughly half the world. The eastern app Hotstar, which has been launched in Israel is not identical to the western app in terms of either features or content.
On all matters related to content, the explanation provided by Disney is that in the US some of the content is purchased from local companies and is therefore only available for viewing in the US, such as the Hulu plan. This content cannot be broadcast outside of the US and is not available on the eastern app. Thus former Americans who have been able to download the US app in various ways are used to seeing the original and are now disappointed.
On the other hand, while there might not be Hulu, the Star brand is a movie channel with adult movies, so to feel deprived of content is perhaps an exaggeration.
And what about features
Why does the local app not allow binge viewing while the American one does? After all this is not such an exceptional and rare feature, which is the norm for any streaming companies advanced interface. So why is it logical that in Israel, the Middle East and Asia, the feature is absent? There is actually an answer.
International streaming companies are beginning to think more about the concept of binge watching. The reason is that binge watching, which we all have to admit is an easy habit to fall into, soaks up content. In others words viewers are likely to watch a complete series in one go, rather than in weekly episodes. This generates expectations for infinite amounts of more content from subscribers and it is difficult for the streaming companies to cope with the demand.
Some of the streaming companies try to slip in ads between each episode in the series to temper the appetite of viewers. It is reasonable to assume that this is why Disney+ has not applied the feature on its eastern app.
Another feature that has aroused debate is the lack of trailers that can be seen before watching movies and serials - a feature that is particularly popular on Netflix. Here it is difficult to understand the reason for its absence but it is highly reasonable to assume that this feature, which substantially promotes viewing, will soon be launched.
For sure Disney+ understands that there is a difference between the apps, and Disney+ may even be working on closing the gap between the two versions. But the small differences can often make a big difference, even if most of the subscribers who ordered the service don't know about the differences.
What about the price?
On top of everything else, the price of the service is more expensive in Israel. Although we are talking about NIS 39.90 per month ($12), in the US the service is only $8 per month. So why is Disney+ charging more in Israel for a poorer service (at the moment)?
Compared with Netflix, the price of Disney+ is very attractive. But what viewing habits will the Israeli subscriber prefer and if they had to choose between Netflix or Disney+, which one would they choose? Or will we see in Israel, what we see in the US, where viewers subscribe to both and switch between the services according to the content they feel like watching.
It may well be that another streaming service for NIS 40 per month won't bother Israelis so much but when the level of competition is so fierce and some of the players are offering very competitive prices, it's tough to tell what Israeli viewers will prefer.
Another charge heard over the weekend is regarding the British concept of Bitrate, which overall defines the quality of the video in the broadcasts. When Bitrate is low then the quality of the video streamed is low, and this saves the steaming service in costs. So far it seems that the level of the Bitrate in Israel is lower than in the west.
The picture will soon become clearer but if indeed the Bitrate in Israel is lower, then this will be especially annoying. This echoes complaints by sports fans that sports broadcasts do not meet the quality promised.
In other words neither K4 nor HD quality broadcasts do not meet acceptable standards. This is because the costs of broadcasting are much higher and they require broader bandwidth to stream quality pictures over the Internet.
Of course not all shortfalls in quality can be blamed on the streaming service and it could be that the lack of quality is the fault of the interface provided by the Internet service supplier (ISP).
Most of those complaining are probably those who already know the Disney+ service from abroad, or use the American app via a VPN.
Disney says in response that matters will improve over time and the gaps will eventually be closed. But most Israeli subscribers, who don't know these differences, have welcomed the new streaming service, one of the world's leaders, along with its fresh content and Disney+ is a serious rival for Netflix, which also did not enter Israel with its full force from day one.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 19, 2022.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.