DisneyNow vs Disney Plus: Which is Better for Your Family?

December 3, 2023

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Watching Disney content is a beloved pastime for families worldwide. With the launch of Disney’s new streaming service Disney Plus, many wonder how it compares to their existing free streaming platform DisneyNow. This comprehensive guide examines the key differences to consider when choosing which service best fits your family’s needs.

Introduction: DisneyNow vs. Disney Plus Explained

Launched in 2017, DisneyNow is a free streaming app with shows and videos from Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD. It replaced older “Watch” branded apps requiring cable authentication.


Disney Plus debuted in 2019 as Disney’s paid over-the-top streaming platform, hosting content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. With 100+ million subscribers in its first year, Disney Plus became massively popular.

Disney Plus

But with overlapping content libraries, many wonder about the key differences when deciding whether to use the free DisneyNow app or pay for Disney Plus access. This guide breaks it down.

Pricing: DisneyNow is Free, Disney Plus Costs $7.99/Month

The most obvious distinction is that DisneyNow is free while Disney Plus costs $7.99 per month. DisneyNow has more limited content, but as a free ad-supported platform for kids focused shows, families don’t pay anything to use it.

In contrast, Disney Plus requires a paid membership fee but unlocks hundreds more movies and shows spanning wider audiences beyond just children. Depending on your preferences, budget constraints and content needs, pricing plays an pivotal role when weighing DisneyNow vs. Disney Plus.

Content Catalog Differences: More Options on Disney Plus

Both platforms offer Disney kids content, but Disney Plus has vastly larger libraries thanks to owning brands like Marvel, Star Wars, and with 20th Century Fox titles too.

DisneyNow focuses specifically on shows from Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior. This includes kid favorites like The Lion Guard, Elena of Avalor, Vampirina and more.

Disney Plus encompasses all of those same kid-friendly options alongside unlimited Marvel superhero movies, every single Star Wars film, popular National Geographic documentaries, 31 seasons of The Simpsons, and many nostalgic Disney animated classics.

For families with diverse viewing preferences across generations, Disney Plus includes options for kids, teens and parents, whereas DisneyNow strictly serves young children.

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Features and Supported Devices

Functionality differs across DisneyNow vs Disney Plus as well:

DisneyNow Features

  • Free access but requires ads and cable TV login
  • Profiles to separate watch history
  • Resume watching option
  • Parental controls
  • Supported on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV and web
  • No downloads available for offline viewing

Disney Plus Features

  • Commercial-free watching
  • Mobile downloads for offline viewing, which helps avoid issues like a Roku blinking white light when the internet goes down
  • Profile customization with avatars
  • Parental controls and Kids Mode
  • Supported on all major platforms – mobile, web, smart TVs, gaming consoles
  • Up to 4 concurrent streams
  • Up to 10 devices linked per account
  • Unlimited streaming with no cable subscription required

Clearly Disney Plus offers parents and families more robust tools for managing preferences across individual viewers while supporting major accessibility needs through broad device support and offline viewing which DisneyNow lacks.

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Accessibility: Authentication Differs on DisneyNow vs Disney Plus

One key differentiation stems around accessibility barriers and authentication requirements contrasting DisneyNow vs Disney Plus:

DisneyNow necessitates logging in through a cable satellite or TV provider account first in order to access all content. Only some episodes can be viewed without this authentication process.

Disney Plus skips any cable subscription requirement, operating as a direct-to-consumer model accessible immediately upon account creation. This makes Disney Plus more amenable to cord-cutter households abandoning traditional pay TV packages.

You can even use Airplay to get Disney Plus on a Firestick.

Verizon customers (both Fios and wireless subscribers) qualify for one free year of Disney Plus access however, offering temporary dual access.

Verdict: Which Streaming Service is Better?

When comparing DisneyNow against Disney Plus, a few key questions help determine the better fit:

  • Will your family watch more than just Disney kids shows? Disney Plus supports far wider audiences.
  • Is ad-free, unlimited viewing a priority? Disney Plus offers an uninterrupted experience.
  • Do you want downloading for offline access or concurrent streaming? Disney Plus permits advanced features that DisneyNow lacks.
  • Have you cut cable TV service? DisneyNow still requires a cable package login.

Based on larger content libraries, broader device support, unique features like offline viewing, and eliminating cable barriers, Disney Plus edges out DisneyNow for most households.

Exceptionally budget-conscious families tuned into Disney kid shows may still prefer ad-supported free DisneyNow. But with massive momentum and growth runway ahead, Disney Plus better satisfies families as an all-in-one streaming entertainment solution.

FAQs About DisneyNow vs Disney Plus

Does Disney Plus include everything that is on DisneyNow?

No. While there is some overlap, Disney Plus does not currently encompass every Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior show that exists on DisneyNow. But popular titles do stream on both platforms.

Can I get Disney Plus for free if I have DisneyNow?

No, the services do not offer joint access. Only Verizon customers (Fios or wireless subscribers) currently qualify for one free year of Disney Plus by signing up through their Verizon account.

What content does DisneyNow have that Disney Plus is missing?

DisneyNow retains certain Disney Channel original shows and episodes which have not yet been migrated over to Disney’s paid streaming library on Disney Plus, though exclusivity gaps continue closing over time.

Why does Disney Plus cost money but DisneyNow is free?

Disney Plus operates as a direct paid streaming platform to offset licensing expenses, while DisneyNow runs ad-supported as a free perk requiring cable authentication. Revenue models differ, shaping the pricing structure.

In closing, by understanding factors around content, features, pricing and accessibility – families can determine whether free DisneyNow or paid Disney Plus better aligns with their streaming priorities and budget. For most, Disney Plus unlocks greater overall value.