Most Netflix Viewers Won't Cancel for Disney+, Survey Finds

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The anticipation about Disney's (NYSE: DIS) direct-to-consumer offering -- Disney+ -- is building, with its debut less than six months away. The company held an investor day last month to reveal details about its upcoming service, and a survey in the wake of the event seemed to spell trouble for Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX). As many as 14.5% of the streaming giant's current U.S. subscriber base, or 8.7 million customers, said they were at least considering canceling their Netflix subscription in favor of Disney+, which could potentially cost Netflix more than $13 billion per year.

Now that the initial excitement following the Disney+ announcement has died down, a new survey is casting doubt on the original findings, suggesting that Disney+ isn't as big a threat to Netflix as originally thought.

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Not a Netflix killer

Now, as few as 7% of Netflix customers say they will cancel their subscription in favor of Disney+, according to a recent survey by Piper Jaffray. The study asked more than 1,500 current Netflix customers if they planned to subscribe to both Disney+ and Netflix, only Netflix, or only Disney. A full 73% said they didn't plan to subscribe to Disney+ at all, while 20% indicated that they would subscribe to both services, and just 7% said they would subscribe to Disney+ and cancel their Netflix subscription.

The worst-case scenario, then, would involve about 4.2 million customers of Netflix's 60 million U.S. subscriber base and potentially $655 million annually in lost revenue for the streaming leader. The reality could be even less problematic.

Michael Olson, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, weighed in on the results, remarking, "We typically find that a larger percentage of subscribers say they will cancel certain services than the percentage that actually follow through on it, so the 7% figure is likely overstating the risk to the Netflix U.S. sub base."

Other considerations

It's important to note that while Disney plans to launch its service at $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year, this is an introductory price that will likely increase over time. While it seems like a screaming bargain right now, Disney will eventually need to make money from its nascent streaming service.

Additionally, the survey only included subscribers in the U.S., Netflix's most mature market. International adoption has been driving the bulk of the company's growth in recent years, with subscribers increasing 31% year over year in the first quarter. Netflix has a multiyear head start creating local content for its international markets, so the release of Disney+ could have less of an effect on Netflix's international growth.

Investor takeaway

There's little doubt that competition is heating up in the streaming space, and with a library of films and television shows going back decades, Disney shouldn't be taken lightly. Netflix has the advantage of already being the default for many consumers, so it's unlikely that many will actually cancel. The cost of a monthly subscription is inconsequential for most U.S. consumers, leaving room for both companies to thrive in the changing media landscape.

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Danny Vena owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney and has the following options: long January 2021 $85 calls on Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.