Did overly aggressive marketing turn Disney Plus into Disney Minus?

It’s called Disney Plus, but some are calling it Disney Minus.

Disney’s long-anticipated and heavily marketed launch into the realm of entertainment streaming ended up “Frozen” on Tuesday, with users complaining about their inability to log on, stream programming, or reach customer care without a long wait. Others noted that some show episodes were labeled in the wrong order. By 9 a.m., the website DownDetector, which keeps track of website outages and issues, had already logged more than 8,000 complaints.

“The demand for #disneyplus has exceeded our highest expectations,” Disney explained via its Disney+ Twitter account. “We are so pleased you’re excited to watch all your favorites and are working quickly to resolve any current issues.” A Disney spokesman did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

But one reason for the technology failure might be that Disney’s marketing pushed too many people to the service at once.

The entertainment giant has promoted its streaming service on every conceivable Disney-owned outlet and beyond. ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” featured shout-outs, Disney theme parks and ESPN have also been drowned in promos, and riders of New York’s short-term rental CitiBikes even received an ad on their app.

And for good reason: Disney has spent billions of dollars on content and technology to ensure that it is a winner in streaming. Netflix, the market leader, launched its streaming service in 2007 and expects to end 2019 with 165 million subscribers. Disney has said it is hoping to garner 60-90 million subscribers by 2024.

“It’s pretty sad that they couldn’t anticipate demand, particularly since they know how many subscribers they have,” said Wedbush tech analyst Michael Pachter, noting that Disney already operates Hulu and ESPN Plus and owns a back-end tech company.

However, Disney isn’t the first company to have major problems launching a mass market internet venture. WWE Network, which carries wrestling, also had problems when it kicked off a new internet-delivered service back in 2014.

One streaming expert, who did not wish to be named since they were not authorized to speak, said Disney+ issues were likely the result of credit card payment gateway problems. A similar issue plagued a pay-per-view screening of a golf match with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson last November. Customers got their money back after paying but not receiving a stream.

“It’s no doubt a black mark for [Disney], but I think the brand and the content is much too strong to really be damaged long term,” said Rob Shepardson, co-founder of the marketing firm SS+K.

Disney must fix its issues fast, said Mark Graham, editor-in-chief of Decider, a website that focuses on streaming. “The challenge for Disney will be to ensure their service runs smoothly after this initial crush subsides, and to quickly remedy these issues before the next wave — when Episode 2 of [Star Wars spinoff] ‘The Mandalorian’ is released, on Friday.”

However, one industry observer pointed out that Disney’s launch failure is actually the perfect example of what is so special about old-fashioned linear TV.

“The technology is ubiquitous and it’s largely bulletproof,” said Dave Morgan, CEO of the audience targeting firm Simulmedia. “It’s ironic.”


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