Report: Disney+ Groupwatch and SharePlay May Not Be Available on Ad Tier
Ad-supported streaming tiers are all the rage nowadays. The launch of Netflix’s plan with ads is mere days away, and now more details are emerging regarding the planned rollout of Disney+’s cheaper, ad-supported tier on Dec. 8, which will cost $7.99 per month. The common theme for both companies seems to be that when the price goes down, so does the amount of features offered.
Disney+ Basic — its ad-supported tier — will not feature either the Shareplay or Groupwatch features, according to tech writer Steve Moser. Moser dug into the code and found that customers on the ad-supported tier who try to access those features will be met with error messages. While there is no guarantee that the code Moser discovered is the same code that will go live on with the ad-tier on Dec. 8, but does seem likely that the two features will not be available to customers on the lower-priced subscription plan.
Disney+ Basic (ad-supported tier) tidbit: “Groupwatch and Shareplay unavailable for accounts on the ads tier.” pic.twitter.com/KuTeJiCEtn— Steve Moser (@SteveMoser) October 24, 2022
Groupwatch and Shareplay have similar functions. Essentially, Shareplay is Apple’s version of Groupwatch, and both allow users to virtually watch content with friends while not in the same room. So, if this code does hold for the December launch, this means that customers of the Disney+ Basic plan won’t be able to generate remote watch parties and sync titles with friends. Disney could ultimately decide to change the exclusion of these features — either before or after Dec. 8 — but with the date quickly approaching, that seems unlikely.
The move is likely to avoid issues with advertisers on Disney’s part. Allowing customers to form watch parties on the ad-supported tier would mean that each viewer would have to get the same ads during every ad break, otherwise their streams would not sync correctly. Advertisers pay a premium to have commercials specifically targeted to individual profiles based on data collected by streaming services. To have ads shared between multiple users viewing the same content would undermine the value of the ads.
Disney is not the only company limiting functionality on its cheapest tier in order to maintain ad partnerships. Netflix’s ad-supported plan will not support downloads for watching content offline, and no Netflix plan supports remote group watching without a third party app. Disney+ will also not allow downloads on its plan with ads. Similar to the issue with Groupwatch and Shareplay, when content is downloaded for offline viewing, there is no way for platforms to serve ads in the content, essentially allowing users to work around the lower-priced ad tier.
In the end, customers will likely see the tradeoff of a lower price point as worth the gaps in functionality that ad-supported Disney+ will offer. Perhaps another third-party app developer will make watch parties possible for customers of Disney+ with ads. Until then, however, if you sign up for Disney+ with ads, don’t expect to be able to sync up with your friends around the world to watch its content.
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