Disney+ Kills Off Its Free Trial — Is it a Sign of Things to Come?
Remember when Netflix introduced something called “Netflix Instant” where users could stream films right to their computer instead of waiting to get their DVDs in the mail? What a quaint time it was, as now every media brand on the face of the earth has decided to stop letting Netflix eat their lunch and, instead, build their own platforms in hopes of selling their services to consumers. Of course, with the list of streamers growing, Americans are starting to wise-up to the mounting costs that come with subscribing to two, three, four, or five different options.
To entice these skeptical viewers, most services offer some version of a free trial — be it one week, two weeks, or a month. However, in a surprising move, today Disney+ dropped its seven-day free trial, meaning that new users will need to either pay up or stay out. That might seem like a no harm, no foul situation for those who aren’t interested in the Disney brand, but make no mistake that this experiment could easily spread if successful.
In the case of Disney+ specifically, one could speculate that this change in policy was at least partially inspired by the impending arrival of Hamilton, as a filmed-on-stage version of the Broadway splash is set to make its exclusive debut on the streaming service July 3rd. In other words, they did not want to throw their shot (sorry) at cashing in on the new audience that may be headed their way. And, considering that the pandemic has been particularly cruel to The Walt Disney Company and the studio shelled out a reported $75 million for the rights to the show, it would make a lot of sense if this title in particular played into the free trials undoing. Then again, aside from Hamilton, Disney+ doesn’t have a ton on the immediate docket to keep new subscribers on board as the second season of The Mandalorian isn’t due until October and the much-hyped Marvel Cinematic Universe shows are likely to be delayed due to pauses in production.
As someone who had a three-year subscription to Disney+ before the service even launched, this particular move doesn’t really affect me. Still, it does make me wonder if we’ll start seeing this strategy employed by other services as competition increases. After all, Quibi offers one of the longest free trials on the market (90 days) and it doesn’t really seem to be helping them at all. So, could we see other services following suit kicking freeloaders to the curb?
At this point, it’s a bit too early to say what impact Disney+’s decision will have on the rest of the industry. That said, you can bet that there will be a lot of eyes on this experiment and plenty of interested parties paying attention to both the feedback from consumers as well as the monetary impacts for Disney. Meanwhile, depending on how you look at it, those of us trying to cut costs and avoid adding too many services to our budget may find it easier or harder to say “no” to new options if free trials are out of the picture.
So, what do you think about Disney+’s bold no-free-trials strategy? I’m very curious to hear your thoughts.