The Desk appreciates the support of readers who purchase products or services through links on our website. Learn more...

Ampere: Disney stands to win as streamers rush to license content

The home screen of the Walt Disney Company's flagship streaming televisions ervice Disney Plus. (Image courtesy the Walt Disney Company, Graphic by The Desk)
The home screen of the Walt Disney Company’s flagship streaming television service, Disney Plus. (Image courtesy the Walt Disney Company, Graphic by The Desk)

After several years of keeping their best television shows and movies to themselves, major film and television studios have signaled a willingness to license their content to other streaming services — and no one stands to benefit more from this sudden shift than Disney, according to a new report published this week.

On Monday, research firm Ampere Analysis said Disney’s robust library of highly-sought motion pictures and television series put it in a competitive position to win the secondary front of the so-called “streaming wars,” one where film and TV studios seek to tap into additional sources of revenue by licensing their content to large services like Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video.

Over much of the past five years, major studios have pulled back on licensing content as they sought to develop their own direct-to-consumer streaming services, which enabled them to forge direct relationships with their audiences and expand profit margins off the back of their intellectual property.

At least, in theory, that’s how it was supposed to work. The coronavirus pandemic shook things up, and after a few years and billions of dollars spent on ho-hum streaming content, investors began pressuring studios to generate returns off their streaming initiatives.

Disney and its peers like Comcast’s NBC Universal, Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) and Paramount Global are unlikely to abandon their direct-to-consumer streaming efforts anytime soon. But the companies have started to embrace licensing once again, and no one is in a better position to capitalize on that shift than Disney, Ampere says.

“Disney holds the most titles with licensing power, owning 148 that were still exclusive to its own streaming services as of December 2023, a potential licensing cache more than double the size of any other major Hollywood studio,” Ampere wrote in a note on Monday.

By comparison, Paramount Global is in a distant second with 72 exclusive titles, while WBD has 54. NBC Universal placed fourth in the competitive set with 47 exclusive titles, according to Ampere.

Disney holds the most titles with licensing power, owning 148 that were still exclusive to its own streaming services as of December 2023. (Graphic supplied by Ampere)
Disney holds the most titles with licensing power, owning 148 that were still exclusive to its own streaming services as of December 2023. (Graphic supplied by Ampere)

The most-sought titles to license are comfort shows from the genre of comedy, Ampere said, with around 25 percent of exclusive titles falling within that category. Again, Ampere said Disney leads the pack with shows like “Hannah Montana,” “The Golden Girls” and “Malcolm in the Middle,” the latter of which it came to own following its blockbuster purchase of certain film and television assets from 21st Century Fox.

That isn’t to say Disney stands alone in offering highly-sought comfort shows: NBC Universal’s intellectual property catalog includes fan favorites like “The Office,” which left Netflix for Comcast’s own service Peacock several years ago. Likewise, Ampere said some shows like “Star Trek” are unlikely to be licensed out to third party streaming services, because they continue to be a draw to a studio’s own product (in that case, Paramount Plus with Showtime).

Still, licensing content can give TV shows and movies a second life on another service that offers a mixture of greater reach and discoverability. Ampere cited last summer’s smash hit “Suits,” which aired for several years on the USA Network before streaming on Prime Video and Peacock, but only made it big after NBC Universal licensed it to Netflix.

“Licensing can expand the audience for existing assets, extend shelf life and at the more successful end of the scale, inspire franchise expansion,” Rahul Patel, a research manager at Ampere, said in a statement on Monday.

Streamers who didn't watch content on Disney Plus in a given month gravitated to Netflix, Prime Video, Tubi and Pluto TV for their video needs. (Graphic supplied by Ampere)
Streamers who didn’t watch content on Disney Plus in a given month gravitated to Netflix, Prime Video, Tubi and Pluto TV for their video needs. (Graphic supplied by Ampere)

The same can happen for hidden gems on Disney Plus and other services — TV shows and movies that haven’t fared well on a studio’s own service, but could prove to be popular if they’re licensed out to the right service. According to Ampere, a survey of streamers found 44 percent of those who didn’t watch Disney Plus in a given month reported watching some content on Netflix, “making it the most-used platform among this cohort,” the note said.

Among subscription streaming services, Prime Video and Hulu follow Netflix as being among some of the most-favored services by streamers who didn’t watch Disney Plus, though Ampere noted ad-supported platforms Tubi (owned by Fox) and Pluto TV (Paramount) were the most-watched streaming services overall by users who didn’t watch Disney Plus, according to their survey.

“At 16 percent for Tubi and 15 percent for Pluto TV, this puts them ahead of Max, Paramount Plus and Peacock,” Ampere said. “The prominence of AVOD services extends to other major SVOD platforms.”

Ampere said ad-supported streaming services are “more likely to skew toward [licensing] unscripted content” like reality and lifestyle shows, and those shows are “also more likely to be non-exclusive.” Those shows also tend to live across many different ad-supported platforms, Ampere said. No particular show was singled out, but reality competitions like “Hell’s Kitchen” and the paranormal series “Unsolved Mysteries” are among the unscripted shows that live across nearly all ad-supported video platforms in the United States, according to an analysis by The Desk.

“We expect more licensing deals for high profile titles to be struck in 2024 between major VOD providers,” Patel said. “Studios’ strategies will need to carefully balance exclusivity and non-exclusivity to ensure their streaming offerings are distinct and compelling, while also maximizing the value of their content as it moves to a second window.”


Related Stories

Get stories like these in your inbox, plus free breaking news alerts on business and policy matters involving media and tech.

Get stories like these in your inbox, plus free breaking news alerts on business and policy matters involving media and tech.

Photo of author

About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
Home » News » Industries » Streaming » Ampere: Disney stands to win as streamers rush to license content