Disney+ looks a bit ‘Mickey Mouse’ as it arrives in Africa

Disney+ looks a bit ‘Mickey Mouse’ as it arrives in Africa
Disney+ has launched in South Africa. (Photo: Patrick T Fallon/Bloomberg)

The new streaming service carried by Hotstar is taking flak on social media for a hot mess.

It’s been a dismal start to what should have been a fantastic relationship with South African viewers. Disney+ launched in the country on 18 May, offering thousands of movies, series and other original content but, from the start, there were complaints about poor picture, sound and customer service.

At just R119 per month or R1,190 for an annual subscription, the cost of Disney+ is well below that of premium Netflix (now R199), which is lurching in a crisis of its own over crumbling subscriber numbers the world over.

With Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic up its sleeve, Disney+ should have been a shoo-in success.

Things haven’t gone according to plan. On day one, there was the personal information breach in which early subscribers, hoping to cash in on an annual subscription deal, reported being logged into other people’s accounts.

Viewers didn’t hold back on Twitter.

“@disneyplusza I have NO IDEA how this happened, but when I re-opened up my app this morning, it was logged into someone else’s account showing their phone number and email address! How does that even happen?”

The glitch was resolved but the complaints haven’t stopped and viewers are fuming about the service’s lack of responsiveness.

One called it a “Mickey Mouse operation” on Twitter. Another said, “I might just cancel this thing”, while Mike Sharman said, “@disneyplusza is nowhere on social. @disneyplus your brand is taking hits, bra.”

Disney’s silence on social media about the widespread technical issues has been deafening, with the service referring customers to its website helpdesk.

On Downdetector, a customer wrote, “Very bad. Keeps buffering. Ridiculous. Never had any Netflix issues, but disney crap, app is full of issues. And support does not listen.” Another said: “My android Disney plus app streaming is down, have audio now pictures. 6mo old grt granddaughter was very upset that her Disney plus app wouldn’t cooperate with us”; and another, “CANCELLED Disney+ because I have very good wifi signal and Disney+ just stopped working on all my devices except my phone. Tried everything they said and they said it must be my signal. Then why does everything else run fine??? By Mickey… the grands hate to see you go but the system is for crap.”

What’s the problem?

South Africa’s Disney+ service is brought to the country via the Hotstar platform from India, which has launched services across Asia.

Glitching while streaming

Hotstar is renowned for clunky, inferior-quality streaming, glitching, muffled sound and a picture that is out of aspect ratio.

For now, Disney+ also offers no downloads, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to preemptively stock up on entertainment before load shedding.

A Walt Disney Company Africa spokesperson said this about complaints concerning technical issues:

“Our team is committed to delivering a best-in-class streaming experience for all subscribers to Disney+, and Hotstar is a fantastic platform to operate in low-bandwidth/mobile-first environments.”

Insisting that the Hotstar team has had success in building streaming platforms at scale in India and across the Asia Pacific region and has mass appeal in the region, the spokesperson said “the launch in South Africa is an extension of this”.

“Our approach to delivering the best user experience possible to subscribers is ongoing and iterative – this applies to all markets where we operate.”

Downloads will be available in a month. “The team is prioritising delivering a seamless viewing experience so subscribers can enjoy our world-class content, but are working quickly to deliver this product capability.”

And on complaints on social media not being addressed: “Our approach is to deliver the best user experience possible to our subscribers and this is ongoing and iterative. Customers should reach out to with any questions.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25. 


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