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The Streaming Wars

Is there such a thing as too much content?

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This Thanksgiving, forget the debate over whether the stuffing should be cooked inside or outside the bird; dismiss the argument on why we have to endure yet another football game featuring the Dallas Cowboys; and deflate that argument about the dozen or so mammoth cartoon characters that float across on our TV screens during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade when there's a global helium shortage. No, my fellow pilgrims, the real debate will undoubtedly be about who gets to hold the TV remote. You see, Thanksgiving Day will be the first real skirmish in what promises to be the Great Streaming War. Gird your loins, Amazon. Prepare for battle, Netflix. The massive army that is Disney Plus is marching your way, not unlike the Night King's army of the dead in the penultimate episodes of Game of Thrones. Speaking of which: HBO? Don't think for a moment that Disney Plus mob doesn't want a piece of your action, as well.

To bring you up to speed (and your home's broadband speed is very much a part of the equation), Disney Plus will thunder onto the media field of battle on Friday, Nov. 1, at the rather consumer-friendly price of $6.99/month, it's first salvo at Netflix's $12.99/month subscription price. What's that you say? You're a grownup, you prefer Netflix's adult fare and can't be bothered by the Mouse House's singing princesses. Apparently, you're discounting Disney's recent spoils of war have included the galaxy (the Star Wars franchise), superheroes (the Marvel universe), plus one of the most impressive feature film libraries in movie history (20th Century Fox). Do they have your attention yet? Disney Plus will also fold in the National Geographic (that's Nat Geo to its friends) library. And then, of course, there will some exclusive Disney Plus series and films. Wait, there's more. Disney Plus is also tempting sports fans with a bundle package that includes ESPN Plus (Disney purchased the "worldwide leader in sports" in 1996) and Hulu (when Disney bought Fox, Hulu came with that deal) for $12.99/month.

Competing streaming services (Amazon, Apple Plus, Netflix, et al) were already a bit nervous about the Disney Plus juggernaut, but this past week things got downright testy. For instance, Disney-owned TV networks (ABC, ESPN, Freeform, etc.) have banned Netflix ads. All the while, Disney Plus has been building up its arsenal as it slowly pulls its popular titles from Amazon and Netflix in hopes that more than a few toddlers will whine to their parents come Thanksgiving and ask, "Hey, what happened to Frozen?" Guess what, Mom and Dad? The only way you'll be able to "Let it Go" will be with a Disney Plus subscription.

But don't think Netflix is taking any of this lightly. Its own Thanksgiving strategy will be to begin serving up something a bit more savory: a steady stream of sure-bet Oscar contenders. In the shadow of Roma's award-tested success a year ago, Netflix has some of the best content in its history heading your way. Having been fortunate to have seen most of them during September's Toronto International Film Festival, I can testify that you're in store for greatness in the next few months, including Marriage Story (starring certain-to-be-nominated Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson), Two Popes (Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Price) and The Irishman (Martin Scorsese's new gangster epic earned the year's best reviews at the New York Film Festival).

Don't think for a moment that the Great Streaming War will ebb anytime soon. Next spring, the soon-to-unveil Apple TV Plus and NBC-owned Peacock will launch their own slates of original programming. Well, that should make for an interesting Easter.