Content is the only thing Disney+ has going for it

What is this garbage?

Unlike many others, I waited until the end of the month to subscribe to Disney+ and after just two days with the service, I am incredibly disappointed with the experience.

Mind you, the content is superb. Being able to catch-up on shows South Africa missed as Disney readied the service for a local launch has been great. Loki is fantastic, Moon Knight is intriguing and revisiting shows like The X-Files has been phenomenal.

The user experience, however, has left me wanting though and hopefully this is something Disney can address before it costs them subscribers.

Let’s start with the biggest issue with Disney+ in South Africa – logging in. My experience has been primarily through the Disney+ website which is not as bad as some of the apps, but it’s still not great.

Disney+ in South Africa makes use of a one-time-pin every time you log in. This means that every time I shut down my PC I would have to log in to Disney+ again. What makes this process so aggravating is that there are times where the OTP isn’t delivered so I’m sitting watching a countdown timer instead of the content I wanted to watch.

I do seem to have found a work around to this. Bookmarking the page where you select your profile and then using that Bookmark to load the page appears to trick the site into thinking you are logged in. This may not work for you, but after two days and numerous power cycles, this works for me.

Once I’ve logged in, the first icon I see is the Disney+ logo urging me to Upgrade. When I first saw this I was confused as I had just paid for a subscription and yet, here I was being asked to upgrade.

What is that upgrade? Glad you asked, it’s paying Disney for a year of access upfront. The upgrade is for Disney+, not me. Yes, you get two months for free when signing up for a full year but a year with the Disney+ user interface feels like more of a punishment.

Then, there is the content or rather how Disney+ presents it.

The Home page is a mish-mash of content Disney has available, from Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic and its other properties. This page is okay, but it’s the pages for Series and Movies I have problems with.

As you scroll down the page you will notice that Disney’s content is arranged by genre in horizontal bars that you can scroll through. Some of these genres are loaded to the gills with content, while others are less populated.

Within series for instance, there is Science Fiction which is loaded with content and then there is horror which almost feels like a mistake considering how little content there is. The problem with this is that scrolling through you can easily select a piece of content you don’t want to watch given there is no indication of how big or small a list is. It’s a small gripe but it’s something that keeps happening and it annoys me.

Perhaps more aggravating is that I can’t view everything in one genre unless I search for that genre. Which leads me to my next point – the search function is terrible.

When searching for “Science Fiction” I am shown 14 pieces of content and then a litany of deleted scenes. This is not all of Disney’s Science Fiction content. I know this because heading to the Science Fiction genre for movies and series reveals a lot more than what you can see in the screenshot below.

Everything Sci-Fi on Disney+ according to its search.

Perhaps I am searching incorrectly, but to my mind, when a user searches for a genre, all the content for that genre should be displayed.

Watch it all!

After admitting defeat and picking Moon Knight to watch I settled in to finally see what everybody was making a fuss for.

After the first episode the credits started to roll and I waited for something similar to Netflix or Showmax where the next episode is skipped to automatically. I waited.

And I waited.

Only when the credits were finally complete did the alert pop-up to warn me that the next episode would start in 10 seconds.

At this point I had already got out of my warm bed to see what was going on and go to the next episode. This repeated until I used the Unified Remote app to remotely control my mouse and skip to the next episode when the credits rolled.

Unbeknownst to me, this would destroy my “Continue Watching” queue. My queue is currently loaded with content I watched to the credits but closed before the credits rolled. To be fair to Disney, Netflix also often gets this wrong but it happens far less frequently than it does on Disney+.

Sum of its parts

The user experience with Disney+ is terrible. From tricks to try and get me to spend more money for the same content and features, to how content is presented, Disney has put its worst foot forward here.

Mind you, I haven’t even used the apps for smartphones and smart TVs yet. This isn’t because I haven’t found the time but rather because I dread the experience that awaits me given the chatter I saw online shortly after launch.

We have tried to contact Disney+ about these problems that appeared at launch, we wanted to know why South Africa has the Hotstar version of Disney+ and not the worldwide version. We asked about the functionality of the app on smart TVs and smartphones and why some users were having an awful experience.

Disney responded but we can’t share that response because they are “on background only” which means we have to weave them into a story rather than being able to come to you with direct answers. Unfortunately, the responses also didn’t contain answers to our questions and were instead broad marketing statements.

Whether Disney will adapt its platforms specifically for the local market is unclear. We’re not holding our breath and we’re not sure users will have the patience to wait for basic functionality like downloading content for offline viewing, or a password.

The local launch of Disney+ has been shambolic to say the least and to my mind, the only reason Disney+ is enjoying a modicum of success is thanks to its content. Disney should worry that as folks start to look closer at the platform itself, they may not be as quick to renew their subscription.

As tempted as I am to request a refund I still have Obi-Wan Kenobi to watch and like I said, the content is the only thing Disney+ has going for it.


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