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How Netflix’s new online store could help it take on Disney

Those Netflix-branded boxer shorts are part of a larger play toward banking on the streaming company’s franchises through merchandising.

How Netflix’s new online store could help it take on Disney
[Photo: Chanikarn Thongsupa/rawpixel; Netflix]
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Netflix opened an e-commerce site on Thursday where you can buy things like caps, necklaces, hoodies, and, yes, underwear—much of it branded with popular Netflix movies and TV series. The move is part of a larger push for the company to compete with Disney’s streaming business, which is propped up by revenue from its merchandising and theme parks.

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Neflix.shop, which was built with the help of Shopify, will start slow, offering products themed with only a few hit shows and then add more and more, reports The New York Times’ John Koblin and Sapna Maheshwari.

Right now the store features products from anime series Eden and Yasuke. Soon enough, there will be baseball caps, T-shirts, hoodies, and sweaters bearing the branding of Netflix’s Lupin series about an expert thief. You’ll also see a Lupin-themed side table for $150 and Lupin throw pillows for $60 apiece. The products were created through a collaboration with Paris’s Louvre museum, the Times reports.

[Photo: Netflix]
Such collaborations aren’t new to Netflix. It recently collaborated with Halston, the American luxury brand, to create a 10-piece capsule collection of gowns priced between $995 and $1,595.

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But Netflix has never gone large on e-commerce. And there’s a big market for entertainment-themed apparel and accessories. The trade group Licensing International said retailers sold $128 billion worth of the stuff worldwide in 2019.

Disney, which has both an online store and a brick-and-mortar store in New York City, gets the biggest piece of that pie. Part of the reason for that is the timelessness of legacy Disney content—you know, Mickey Mouse and Bambi. But Netflix believes hits like Tiger King and Stranger Things might have some staying power, too.

When Disney first announced its intent to launch its streaming service in the summer of 2017, it signaled that the race was on between Disney and Netflix, and that the true nature of the competition could be measured by whether Disney could become Netflix faster than Netflix could become Disney. In other words, one of Netflix’s greatest challenges is to branch out into other types of revenue streams like Disney does, which makes most of its money downstream from the actual content, through licensed merchandise and theme parks.

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Netflix may intend to build a similar type of ecosystem to make money from the franchises it’s created. But it’s taken the company a while to reach this step, while Disney moved quickly to get into streaming video and has made it a success.

But Netflix also has some Disney-trained talent to help it get there. The company’s global head of consumer products, Christie Fleischer, worked until 2018 as Disney’s head of merchandise for parks, experiences, and consumer products.

About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.

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