How Disney’s TV Everywhere apps complement Netflix

While cable’s TV Everywhere initiative is usually perceived as a means of countering over-the-top services like Netflix, some of its early products seem downright complimentary.

Case in point: Disney’s (s DIS) just-released iOS apps for kiddie cable channels Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Jr., which seem to steer viewers looking to stream older episodes toward Netflix.

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The three apps let the 22 million subscribers of the No. 1 pay TV service, Comcast’s Xfinity (s CMCSA), watch live feeds of the Disney channels, plus a limited selection of repeats, on iPhones and iPads. A more limited amount of content is available to non-Xfinity users who can’t authenticate their subscription through username and password.

As noted Friday by BTIG Research, which test drove the new apps and audited their content, pretty much every show from each of the three youth-targeted networks is represented. (Having streamed The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on my iPhone, I can verify this.)

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Notably lacking, however, is catalog depth. BTIG cited the example of Disney Channel show Good Luck Charlie. The Xfinity app lets users watch seven episodes spanning two seasons. Netflix, on the other hand, offers 56 episodes comprising three full seasons.

With the Disney apps being among TV Everywhere’s early major content offerings, a strategy has emerged whereby media companies like Disney who do business with Netflix or other streaming services attempt to steer clear of undermining the subscription video on demand service.

In recent interviews, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and chief content officer Ted Sarandos have stressed their company’s role in the television ecosystem as one of a “catch-up” service, providing comprensive libraries of repeats and steering clear of fresher episodes.

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Certainly, giving Netflix that space to operate makes sense for Disney. According to Sanford Bernstein research, the conglomerate makes about $100 million a year from licensing “library content” from networks including Disney Channel and ABC Family to Netflix, with which it has a one-year licensing deal that expires Oct. 31.

What remains to be seen: Will other channels that license content to SVOD services, like Viacom’s Nickelodeon, release TV Everywhere platforms with the same approach to archival episodes?