At the outset of this global pandemic, I think we were all just a little bit ready to experience any semblence of our old lives again. So when we found out we were going to get to watch brand-new, first-run movies again, maybe we were a little more willing to fork over some money to make it happen at home. I know I was all set to pay $20 for my daughter to be able to watch Trolls 2 for a weekend.
But as time has worn on, it seems that we’ve gotten more and more resistant to paying extra for doing at home what we’ve never done at home before. Specifically, and most recently, Disney has come under fire on social media for their $30 fee to access first-run movies premiering on Disney+ with their Premier Access program. After all, you’re already paying $6.99 per month (soon to be $7.99) – why should you have to pay another $30 for a movie. Oh, and don’t forget HBO Max only charges a flat $14.99.
This conversation got my gears turning. Is Premier Access a ripoff? Is this all corporate greed, taking advantage of people’s fears and concern over safety? Let’s take a look.
In order to really break this down, we’ll need to look at this a number of different ways. And as always, the answers to the questions we’re seeking can only be found…from a certain point of view. That’s only half a corny joke, because in all honesty, depending on your situation, your answer to this question will be different.
I’m going to strictly compare Disney+ to HBO Max here. Keep in mind that other platforms have also charged for movies in the last year, and their rules and fees have been different. But Disney+ and HBO Max seem to be the two prime places to make this happen nowadays, and it seems like the best comparison to make.
To get this done, I turned to my trusty friend Microsoft Excel and plugged in some numbers. This is a very crude spreadsheet, but it gets the job done:
We’ll take this line by line. The first few are pretty self explanatory: cost of a month’s subscription (you’ll notice I used Disney+’s $1 increase instead of the current price), the cost of a new movie on each platform, and the number of new movies to premier on each service in 2021. To the best of my knowledge, Disney will release Raya, Black Widow, and Cruella. HBO Max looks set to release about 17 Warner Brothers movies. I did not count Zack Snyder’s Justice League as that most likely would have been exclusive to the streaming service regardless of the pandemic.
The number of days you have access to these movies requires an estimate on Disney+. Since you pay $30 and keep access to that movie until it becomes available to all Disney+ subscribers, you have to estimate how long that will be. Generally, that seems to be about three months, hence 90 days. HBO Max is a clear-cut 31 days.
Overall 2021 Cost is calculated by 12 months of subscription costs, and in Disney+’s case three charges of $30 each. Cost of One Month for One Movie is simply how much you will pay for one month worth of access to either service assuming you only want one movie and are not already subscribed to either service. And finally, Cost Per Movie Per Day shows how much per day you pay if you will be keeping the subscription for as long as you have exclusive access to the movie you want. That column is broken into two results for HBO Max because if your subscription renews before your 31 days worth of access is over, you would pay for two months worth of access. That would be stupid to do for a day or two, but I included both numbers just in case you really REALLY want to watch it again before it’s gone.
So what does all this tell us? Well, in a nutshell, the only way that your cost of Disney+ Premier Access is substantially higher than HBO Max is if you only want to subscribe to get access to a single movie. If you don’t have Disney+ and you really want to watch Black Widow, you’ll be paying a good bit more than if that movie happened to be on HBO Max. The way it breaks down after that is pretty similar in cost, with a slight favor to HBO Max in terms of consumer cost. As you can see, a full year of both services with all three of Disney’s Premier Access movies is only $6 more than a full year of HBO Max. The price you pay per day to subscribe and keep that subscription until your exclusive access is gone is only about a $0.12 difference (unless you’re really gonna keep HBO Max for all 31 days of that movie even if you have to pay that $14.99 again).
You could also break it down another way. If you’re subscribing to Disney+ for Black Widow and keeping it until your exclusive access is gone, you’ll pay for three months of a subscription at $7.99 each, plus $30. Essentially the cost of that exclusive time boils down to $17.99 per month. With HBO Max, assuming you do just the one month for one movie, you have $14.99 per month. A $3 difference per month. Again, slightly cheaper per month for HBO Max, but again, not unreasonable.
That difference in time is also worth discussing. Having continuous access to your Disney+ Premeir Access movie for one fee is beneficial. We took our daughter to the theater to see Raya, for example. The very next day, she wanted to watch it again. Which meant either another trip to the theater for a family of three, or another $30 for Premier Access. Had we done that in the first place, we’d never have to pay for it again (unless we ever stopped subscribing to Disney+ or we would want it in physical form). If I subscribe to HBO Max for Tom & Jerry (don’t worry, I wouldn’t), it’s gone after 31 days and I’m either buying it again when it is on home video (for probably around $20-$30) or seeing if it streams somewhere else later.
The other thing to consider is the cost of you going to a movie theater, which will be an option for these movies. So, again, I turned to Excel and did a very quick breakdown of what that might cost you:
It’s pretty easy to see where your value as a consumer lies in this chart. If you are alone, but a little hungry or fancy a snack while watching, you’re roughly about $7 cheaper at a theater than at home with Disney+. But if you start adding more people to the mix who also might be a little hungry or fancy that snack, then you’re in for a much cheaper night at home. And of course, these are based on 2019 averages. I would be willing to bet this increases as we start heading back to theaters in the next year or so. I happen to think $9.16 is a little on the low side in my area for an evening movie ticket, especially if you’re seeing one in 3D or 4K (which you can do at home for no extra fees). I can also tell you our trip to the theater for Raya was well over $40 for three tickets, one popcorn, and two drinks. I don’t need Excel to tell you what the better deal was there.
There are also intangibles to consider as well. For example, me having access to pretty much all of the Star Wars back catalog and most of the Marvel back catalog (including all that 90s animated goodness) is a heck of a value for Disney. If those don’t interest you, then you’re probably not reading this article, and that also changes the value for you. Have you also signed up for a year (or more) of access at either of these services? Because that changes the value. I signed up for a 3 year deal of Disney+ at launch, making my monthly cost even lower than the $6.99 it launched at.
There are other conversations to be had around this. Is a separate fee for a new movie reasonable, but maybe $30 is too much (especially if you’re not watching with family or friends)? That’s a fair point to make. Does adding gas into the mix change things for you, especially if you have a longer trip to the theater than other people? Also a fair point. Is staying home and not having to wear a mask or worry about what germs you’re collecting worth more to you than $30? Also a fair point.
I think where I’ve arrived with this topic is simple: I don’t see $30 as an exorbitant amount, and would be perfectly willing to pay that for my family. I am also subscribing for a full year regardless, and I won’t be buying all three of Disney’s Premier Access titles since I already skipped Raya. So right there, I’m already cheaper for a full year on Disney+. Also, while someone else may find value with 17 Warner Brothers movies, I already know for certain I won’t be watching all of those.
As I mentioned way up above, that’s from my own point of view. For you, that may be far too high. And you would be right, from your own point of view.
Funny how that little saying keeps coming around on this site, isn’t it?