Everything We’ve Learned About Disney’s Streaming Service

In August, Disney sent shockwaves across the film and TV industry when they announced they were parting ways with Netflix and other streaming sites. No longer is Disney willing to license their properties to other streaming services. Instead, in 2019 they aim to launch their own.

As the months pass, we’re getting a clearer sense of just what this new Disney streaming service will look like. Little by little, it’s becoming clear that this concept is central to Disney’s entire business strategy going forward. Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far.

This Will Contain The Entire Disney Portfolio

It’s long been an open secret that Disney was seeking to enter the streaming market. In fact, from late 2016 there were actually rumors that Disney originally considered purchasing Netflix outright. As Forbes reported, the $77.7 billion market cap made the price far too high, and instead Disney is choosing to view Netflix as a competitor. In 2019, Disney will withdraw all their content from Netflix and make it exclusively available on their own streaming service.

There was initial uncertainty as to whether or not this would include the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, with Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos telling Reuters that the two companies were in “active discussions.” In the end, the decision was made, and those two franchises will indeed form part of the core Disney portfolio on this new streaming site.

No doubt there are still aspects of this that have to be resolved, not least the fate of the popular Marvel Netflix original series. Tellingly, at the beginning of November, Marvel pulled their forthcoming New Warriors series from Freeform, preventing a similar issue arising with that show. The Hollywood Reporter revealed that sources have indicated Marvel is no longer allowed to sell to outside companies, restricting future series to channels, networks, and services that are part of Disney. The clear goal is to ensure that all Marvel property is on the Disney service in 2019.

The Defenders make a stand
The fate of the Marvel Netflix shows is uncertain. [Image by Sarah Shatz/Netflix]

Disney Is Serious About Wanting Content

We gained fresh insight into just how serious Disney is about this proposition on November 5, when CNET reported that Disney had actually held talks to purchase the bulk of 21st Century Fox. Analysts have pointed out that Disney’s focus is probably on the 21st Century Fox vault. Longtime media executive Mike Kelly, for example, told The Wrap that the purchase will be all about building a stronger portfolio for the service.

“All the media companies that used to make their money by licensing their content to other people, now they’re realizing they have the opportunity to go directly to consumer. They’re being pushed in that direction. I think Disney looks at it as a way it can increase its catalog and it can bring more value to streaming services.”

Ross Gerber, the president and CEO of wealth management firm Gerber Kawasaki, agreed.

“It’s such a sweet move. I think it gives insight into what Disney’s thinking. If it’s not with Fox it will probably be something else. They’re looking to roll up content for the [streaming service].”

It’s too soon to say whether or not anything will come from these talks. If the bid is successful, Disney will add a massive range of content to their portfolio, including The Simpsons, film and TV rights to the X-Men franchise, and distribution rights for the Star Wars original trilogy. Although the rights to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi will revert to Lucasfilm in 2019, Fox co-financed and co-produced A New Hope, so those rights would otherwise stay with Fox. It’s clear that Disney is serious about bolstering their portfolio in order to make this streaming service a success.

The Disney Streaming Service Will Feature Promising Original Content

Netflix executives have long maintained that, in order to be competitive in this digital market, you need to be producing original content. The argument has recently been proven by the success of Star Trek: Discovery. CBS reported that the series led to record numbers of subscriptions for CBS All Access, and they’ve renewed the show for a second season.

Given this context, it should come as no surprise that Disney has just announced a swathe of high-profile original content that will be exclusively available on their Disney streaming service. That includes the long-rumored live-action Star Wars TV series, likely to be helmed by Clone Wars and Rebels showrunner Dave Filoni. There will also be a new Marvel series, and shows inspired by Monsters, Inc. and High School Musical. In addition to these series, Disney CEO Bob Iger told Variety to expect four or five original movies to be produced for the streaming service every year.

Disney Aims To Compete In A Growing Market

The question that haunts modern TV executives is this: how many streaming services will viewers actually subscribe to? Disney is clearly focused on ensuring they have a competitive offering, and that’s why they’re working so hard on building up their digital portfolio. Another key part of this is price, and Iger has indicated they’re looking at prices “substantially below” Netflix’s $10.99 a month. Some analysts have even suggested Disney is likely to launch with an initial price of just $5 a month, in order to compete in an already crowded market.

It’s becoming clear that this new streaming service isn’t just a part of Disney’s plans going forward. Rather, it’s the central component. Disney has recognized that digital technology has transformed the modern film and TV industry, and they’re convinced they have what it takes to compete in it directly. Should Disney’s plans prove successful, we can expect a radical shakeup in this new market.

[Featured Image by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images]