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As streaming grows, would Disney ever separate and compete with Netflix?

How important is streaming in the company's future?

Disney Movies Anywhere. Remember that?

When Disney first launched its digital marketplace, giving audiences the option to stream titles, there wasn't too much hype surrounding it. Rather, there wasn't as much hype as there should have been for a service that promised users the option to stream their favorite Disney movies. And for good reason. To stream these movies, people still had to purchase the titles before they were added to a library of titles that could then be streamed from an account across different devices.

Although these movies could technically be streamed, it didn't abide by the new standard of streaming that companies like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon had popularized. It wasn't subscription based, for example, and was more akin to how iTunes users could access and stream the videos they've rented or purchased than anything else. Instead of turning Disney Movies Anywhere into a full fledged streaming service, like Netflix, Disney decided to license its films out to the leading streaming services, and let digital marketplaces like iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video become the go-to destinations for downloading them.

On Tuesday, Disney's stock dropped 6 percent after the company missed its revenue and earnings targets. While the company still made upwards of $50 billion, it decided to cut some costs by getting rid of its Disney Infinity video game line, taking a $147 million charge in the process, and making the decision to license out its different divisions (Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel) instead of developing their own games.

Disney decided to license its films

One of the big questions that was asked during a conference call was "what's next for the company?" While CEO Bob Iger didn't address it, one of the obvious answers, and one of the things that people have been repeatedly asking for, is a streaming service. This would not only open the Vault — Disney's archive of movies which they periodically open — but also allow subscribers access to Disney's entire catalogue of films in one place. Disney representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

The biggest question is why hasn't Disney built this type of platform yet?

Dan Rayburn, an analyst who specializes in streaming services, told Polygon that if Disney wanted to launch a streaming service, it would have by now, but that he was surprised they hadn't brought more attention to Disney Movies Anywhere.

"They're not idiots, they know exactly how much their content is worth," Rayburn told Polygon. "These conversations have probably already occurred and they've said, 'It makes much more sense to just license out our properties than to try and compete with other services.'"

Still, Rayburn said he was surprised that Disney hasn't promoted any of its digital services, including Movies Anywhere, as prominently as it could.

They know exactly how much their content is worth

"You don't think of Disney in the same sphere as you do streaming sites like Netflix or Amazon," he said. "No one ever says, 'I'm going to watch that through Disney' and that seems really odd to me. But the landscape is changing and Disney may want to make the move to its own streaming platform eventually."

Rayburn added that there needs to be a big demand from consumers for a platform separate from Netflix for Disney movies. Otherwise, he added, it doesn't make sense for Disney to compete with such an established service.

"It all comes down to whether or not Disney thinks its going to make more money off of licensing, and at this point in time, it looks like it would," Rayburn said.

When Netflix and Disney first brokered their deal, with the former company beating out competition from HBO and Starz to get exclusive rights to the films in a "premium TV" window, analysts said the deal would make Disney approximately $300 million. This gave Netflix first access to most of Disney's properties, including Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel, and Disney didn't have to necessarily worry about satiating the digital interests of its consumer base.

Disney/Marvel Heidi Gutman(Getty Images)

But as Disney looks to the future and tries to find other ways to make profit, the question has been raised over whether or not the company would cut its ties with Netflix and offer everything exclusively through its own streaming service. Rayburn said that he didn't have the answer to that, but he was sure there have been talks about this exact type of thing.

"Right now, Disney is like the TV Guide for movies. I don't really need to go to your website to watch a movie, but I can see where to go to get it," he said. "Once their catalogue becomes more expansive, Disney may decide it's worth the additional cost of running a streaming platform and bringing a team on, but there are incredibly smart people having these conversations all the time. I honestly don't know if they'll ever launch their own platform."

"No one ever says, 'I'm going to watch that through Disney'"

2016 has become the year of streaming. Publications like Mashable and the Huffington Post have started launching their own streaming platforms, companies like Netflix and Hulu are seeing huge jumps in subscribers and more companies are deciding to spend their money on digital platforms than ever before. As more people gravitate to watching movies and television online, streaming will only get bigger and the industry will only get more competitive.

The next question Disney will have to answer is how important is exclusivity to them as a company and would that desire to have an exclusive service make them transition away from licensing deals into other streaming avenues? As of right now, the company seems to be pretty happy with its current business model.

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