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Next Round of the Streaming War Kicks-Off With Disney+ Launch

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  • After months of anticipation, Disney+ officially launched. While its content was met with largely decent reviews, it did face criticism from fans who were upset that the site crashed and had connection problems on its first day.
  • Meanwhile, an executive at Apple TV+ stepped down after the platform premiered two weeks ago to less than exciting reviews.
  • Apple and Disney are the latest to introduce their own streaming services, with more to follow. With Disney+ now in full swing, many wonder what the future of streaming will look like, and what will happen to platforms like Netflix.

Disney+ Launches

With the launch of Disney+ in full swing, the streaming wars are seeing its latest– and potentially biggest– battle. 

On Tuesday, Disney’s highly anticipated streaming service launched in the United States. Containing content that ranges from Disney’s classic animated films, to Star Wars and Marvel productions, the buildup to Disney+ was filled with fanfare and anticipation. 

When users went to watch both old and new shows, however, many hit a bump in the road. Several fans reported having connection issues with the service. In an appropriate nod to the studio’s catalog, Ralph and Venellope von Schweetz from Wreck it Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet deliver the bad news in an error message. 

Fans online reported receiving this message when trying to view content, load shows, and log in to or edit their profiles. Disney was the number one trending topic on Tuesday morning, accompanied by hashtags like #DisneyPlusDown and #DisneyPlusFail. Disney+ responded on Twitter, saying demand for the service “exceeded our highest expectations.”

Despite this bump in the road, the content on Disney+ has generated a relative amount of praise. High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has been hailed by USA Today as “nostalgia done right”

The Mandalorian, the highly anticipated Star Wars series, has also seen fairly decent reviews. The Los Angeles Times called it a “safe” but “entertaining blockbuster” while The Verge said it proved Star Wars can work on the small screen. 

The Mandalorian became a trending topic of its own, followed by other nostalgic Disney shows like Gargoyles and Lizzie McGuire.

Apple TV+ Executive Leaves

Disney, however, was not the only streamings service making headlines. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Kim Rozenfeld is leaving his role as the head of scripted, unscripted and documentary programming at Apple TV+. 

Rozenfeld will still remain with the company in some capacity. According to the Reporter, he will work as a producer and has a first-look deal with Apple.

Apple TV+ launched two weeks ago to less than enthusiastic reviews. Of its four scripted originals, the service heavily marketed its celebrity-packed series The Morning Show. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, the show was picked up for a second season before it even aired. Reviews for it ended up being less than favorable. 

Rolling Stone said, “Apple TV+ Rises But Doesn’t Shine With Starry New Drama.” CNN said it sounded a “muted alarm for Apple TV+.”

Each of the service’s original shows generated low buzz in comparison to larger projects at other streaming services like Netflix. Variety published a study done by Parrot Analytics that looked at the demand for new shows in 2019 following their first 24 hours of release. Apple TV+’s content all fell at the bottom of the list, with The Morning Show squarely in last place. 

Not all press for Apple TV+ was negative, though. Starting at $5 a month, it is among the more affordable streaming options. The remainder of its scripted shows also got the green light for second seasons. 

Future of Streaming

These stories do shine a light onto the world of streaming and the so-called “streaming wars” that studios, networks, and other services are finding themselves fighting. In the cases of Disney+ and Apple TV+, both have had problems as they launched, a technical error in one case and a business shake-up in another. Still, based on excitement and critical review alone, it does feel that Disney+ is leading the charge as far as services that could become a serious threat to dethrone Netflix as the king of streaming. 

Disney owns multiple facets of the entertainment industry, including ABC, Marvel, ESPN, 20th Century Fox, and earlier this year gained full control of Hulu. With all these properties in its back pocket, it has almost always seemed the obvious leader in this fight. 

With other companies poised to launch services of their own, it begs the question: how do they plan to compete with Disney’s large catalog of content?

Right now, it seems NBC Universal will have their service, Peacock, be free to users with ads. On the other hand, HBO Max, which comes from Warner Media, is aiming to be on the more expensive side of the spectrum at $14.99 per month. Both have been in ongoing battles to get their content back from places like Netflix to put on their own services. Peacock has secured The Office and HBO Max grabbed Friends. Those two shows are among the most popular on Netflix.

See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNBC)

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Apple Raises Worker Pay as Unions Gain Ground

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The company’s vice president of people and retail was caught trying to dissuade employees from unionizing in a leaked video.


Labor Squeezes Apple into Submission

Apple announced Wednesday that its U.S. corporate and retail employees will see a pay increase later this year, with starting wages bumped from $20 per hour to $22, though stores in certain regions may get more depending on market conditions.

Starting salaries are also expected to increase.

“Supporting and retaining the best team members in the world enables us to deliver the best, most innovative, products and services for our customers,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “This year as part of our annual performance review process, we’re increasing our overall compensation budget.”

Some workers were told their annual reviews would be moved up three months and that their pay increases would take effect in early July, according to a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, they were told the increased compensation budget would be in addition to pay increases and special awards already received within the past year.

Feeling squeezed by low unemployment and high inflation, tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have changed their compensation structures in recent weeks to pay workers more, and Apple is the latest to bend to market pressure.

Unions Gaining Traction

On Wednesday, The Verge received a leaked video of Apple’s vice president of people and retail, Deirdre O’Brien, explicitly dissuading employees from unionizing.

“I worry about what it would mean to put another organization in the middle of our relationship,” she said. “An organization that does not have a deep understanding of Apple or our business. And most importantly one that I do not believe shares our commitment to you.”

She vocalized more anti-union talking points, like the idea that the company will not be able to make important decisions as quickly with a collective bargaining agreement.

O’Brien has been personally visiting retail stores over the past few weeks in an apparent bid to combat budding union activity.

Apple stores in three locations — New York, Georgia, and Maryland — are currently pushing to unionize, with the latter two set to vote in elections on June 2 and 15, respectively. In response to these efforts, Apple has hired anti-union lawyers, given managers anti-union scripts, and held anti-union captive audience meetings.

In the United States, unionized workers make about 13.2% more than non-unionized workers in the same sector, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

As of Wednesday, Apple’s shares had fallen 21% since the start of the year, but sales grew 34% last year to almost $300 billion.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (The Verge)

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Employees at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software Form First Union at a Major Gaming Company

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Organizers say the decision has the potential to upend labor practices in the gaming industry.


Raven Software QA Testers Win Union Bid

A group of 28 workers at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software voted to form the first-ever union at a major U.S. gaming company. 

While the Game Workers Alliance is a small union, organizers in the space say its formation represents a major shift for the gaming industry and will encourage others in the sector to follow suit.

The newly unionized workers are quality insurance (QA) testers working at the Wisconsin-based studio to develop “Call of Duty.” QA testers work to sort out any glitches in games, and the jobs are notoriously known for extreme crunch periods where staffers work long stretches of hours before a game’s release.

During crunch periods, employees are regularly given 12- to 14-hour shifts with just a few days off each month in order to meet release deadlines.

Many QA testers have said they are treated as second-class to others in the industry. They are paid much lower — often minimum wage or close to it — work on contract cycles and, as a result, feel disposable.

That particular sentiment was underscored for workers at Raven Software in December when the company ended the contracts of about a dozen QA testers. The decision prompted the remaining QA testers to hold a walkout and, shortly after that, they began organizing to form a union, which they dubbed the Game Workers Alliance.

Activision’s Battle Against Unionization Effort

Activision did not support the push for unionization and actively fought against it. The company refused to voluntarily recognize the union, and just days after the group filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, it moved QA testers to different departments across its properties.

Activision also announced it would convert over 1,000 temporary QA workers to full-time employees, give them a pay raise to $20 an hour, and provide more benefits. However, management said the move would not apply to the unionizing workers because, under federal law, they could not try to encourage workers from voting against unionization by offering pay hikes or benefits. Union leaders repudiated that argument.

Additionally, Activision fought against the union petition, arguing that any union would need to include all of the studio’s employees, but the Labor Board rejected the claim and let the effort proceed.

According to multiple reports, Activision management continued to push against the union in the weeks leading up to the vote. Some Raven employees told The Washington Post company leaders had suggested at a town hall meeting that unionization could hurt game development and impact promotions and benefits. The following day, the managers allegedly sent an email urging workers to “vote no.” 

On Monday, Labor Board prosecutors announced they had determined that Activision illegally threatened workers and enforced a social media policy that violated bargaining rights. Activision denied the new allegations.

The two parties will have until the end of the month to file an objection, and if none are filed, the union becomes official. It is currently unclear how Activision and Raven will respond, but they have signaled that they might not make the transition period easy for the union.

According to internal documents seen by Bloomberg, the company has repeatedly mentioned that it can take a while for a union to negotiate its first contract.

In a statement following the vote, an Activision spokesperson told The Post that the company respects the right of its employees to vote for or against a union, but added: “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 of Raven employees. We’re committed to doing what’s best for the studio and our employees.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)

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Uber Forks Over $19 Million in Fine for Misleading Australian Riders

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The penalty is just the latest in a string of lawsuits going back years.


Uber Gets Fined

Uber has agreed to pay a $19 million fine after being sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for making false or misleading statements in its app.

The first offense stems from a company policy that allows users to cancel their ride at no cost up to five minutes after the driver has accepted the trip. Despite the terms, between at least December 2017 and September 2021, over two million Australians who wanted to cancel their ride were nevertheless warned that they may be charged a small fee for doing so.

Uber said in a statement that almost all of those users decided to cancel their trips despite the warnings.

The cancellation message has since been changed to: “You won’t be charged a cancellation fee.”

The second offense, occurring between June 2018 and August 2020, involved the company showing customers in Sydney inflated estimates of taxi fares on the app.

The commission said that Uber did not ensure the algorithm used to calculate the prices was accurate, leading to actual fares almost always being higher than estimated ones.

The taxi fare feature was removed in August 2020.

A Troubled Legal History

Uber has been sued for misleading its users or unfairly charging customers in the past.

In 2016, the company paid California-based prosecutors up to $25 million for misleading riders about the safety of its service.

An investigation at the time found that at least 25 of Uber’s approved drivers had serious criminal convictions including identity theft, burglary, child sex offenses and even one murder charge, despite background checks.

In 2017, the company also settled a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for $20 million after it misled drivers about how much money they could earn.

In November 2021, the Justice Department sued the company for allegedly charging disabled customers a wait-time fee even though they needed more time to get in the car, then refused to refund them.

Later the same month, a class-action lawsuit in New York alleged that Uber charged riders a final price higher than the upfront price listed when they ordered the ride.

See what others are saying: (ABC) (NASDAQ) (Los Angeles Times)

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