The streaming cold war got a few notches hotter today, as The New York Times reports that Disney has begun banning advertisements from Netflix on the majority of its TV networks—including ABC, Freeform, Nat Geo, and more. The only exception to this blanket ban is ESPN, presumably on the grounds that, hell, nobody knows how sports streaming actually works.
Today’s news comes alongside continuing reports that Disney is taking its “No, you really can’t play with our toys anymore” approach to the nascent online fist fight to its logical extreme, with company CEO Bob Iger recently dropping off the board at Apple for similar reasons. As the Times also notes, there’s really no downside to the mega-giant pissing off Netflix by shutting off their ads; neither company is pursuing new licensing deals with the other, obviously, and unlike, say, the cable companies, the streamer doesn’t have any allies or connections Disney can’t afford to lose.
Netflix spends something like $1.6 billion a year on advertising, which is baffling in so far as the company has only one product, and pretty much everybody on the planet knows what it is. (As far as we can tell, they’re mostly pursuing the “freed from a cult” and “woke up from a long-ish coma” demographics.) Still, losing access to the Oscars—which the company sponsored this year, and which will continue to be broadcast on ABC through at least 2028—has to hurt, even if they might manage to sneak in there another way.
None of this is shocking, exactly; nobody likes taking money to tell consumers how great their competitors are. Still, there was a minute there, during the long, ongoing fracturing of the media markets, where TV networks and streaming services were considered different enough that you could skirt around that particular taboo. No longer, though; with the launch of Disney+ now a little more than a month away, the time for hardball is presumably here to stay.