Dear Netflix: Keep your money.
That is the message The Walt Disney Co. sent by banning advertising from Netflix on its entertainment television networks – principally ABC and Free-form – as it prepares to introduce its own Netflix-style streaming service, Disney Plus.
Disney will continue to accept Netflix ads on its ESPN channels, largely because Netflix does not compete with Disney in sports.
The Netflix ban, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was confirmed by Disney on Friday. In a statement, Disney said it had updated its policy on accepting ads from rival streaming services “to reflect the comprehensive business relationships we have with many of these companies.”
Put more bluntly, Disney does not need Netflix.
Netflix does not sell any advertising on its own platform, so Disney has no opportunity to directly advertise Disney Plus to Netflix customers. And Netflix is not embedded within a larger media conglomerate that Disney relies upon for cable distribution.
Disney decided not to restrict advertising from HBO Max or Peacock, streaming services from AT&T and Comcast that are set to debut next year. AT&T and Comcast are the two largest cable service providers in the United States.
Netflix declined to comment. The streaming service spent about $1.8 billion on advertising last year, about $100 million of which bought ads on television networks, according to iSpot.tv, the advertising measurement firm. About 13% of that $100 million went to Disney-owned entertainment networks; Netflix was a sponsor of last year’s Oscars telecast, which ran on ABC. (Netflix will likely be part of the next Oscars anyway, with awards prognosticators saying that the streaming giant has no fewer than three movies that could figure into the best-picture race.)
Television networks have long rejected ads from direct competitors. FX doesn’t take ads for HBO shows, for instance. Over the last few years, however, broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC have propped up their advertising sales by accepting billions of dollars in advertising from streaming services. During last month’s Emmy Awards on Fox, Apple advertised its new streaming dramas, and Disney Plus advertised its wares. Netflix used the Emmys to tout a new movie called “El Camino” that is based on the AMC series “Breaking Bad.”
But media companies are retreating to their own corners as the so-called streaming wars heat up.
Robert A. Iger stepped down from the Apple board last month on the same day that Apple announced that its streaming service, Apple TV Plus, would debut Nov. 1 and cost $5 a month. Disney Plus, which will cost $7 a month, arrives Nov. 12. Disney has also been moving its content off Netflix as it prepares to introduce Disney Plus. Netflix has also lost content from WarnerMedia, which is behind HBO Max.
“The direct-to-consumer business has evolved, with many more entrants looking to advertise in traditional television, and across our portfolio of networks,” Disney said in its statement.