In September 2017, Disney announced plans to create its own streaming video service, an online platform to challenge Netflix, Hulu, and similar high-end streamers. Just over a year later, that service was given a name, Disney Plus, and at an Investors meeting this April we got our first look at the service, as well as information on pricing ($6.99 a month or $69.99 for the year) and a launch date of November 12, 2019.
The new Disney Plus streaming service will be a competitor to video streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and -- later this year -- Apple TV Plus. It's a paid subscription without any advertising, and it gives customers access a vast library of Disney's and Fox's legacy content as well as new, exclusive TV shows, movies and documentaries.
Disney wants its other streaming services -- Hulu and sports-focused ESPN Plus -- to run on the same tech platform so you can subscribe to them with the same password and credit card info. Disney plans for all three to be individual subscriptions, but it said it's likely to bundle them at a discount.
Hulu will be where Disney streams more adult-oriented fare. For example, Hulu is where a new Marvel collection of “grown-up” animated series will stream, and it's likely where Deadpool-like content will live now that Disney owns Fox. Hulu will continue to stream content from three of the broadcast networks and its own original series, like The Handmaid's Tale and Castle Rock. (ESPN Plus will, clearly, focus on sports.) No R-rated content will be on Disney Plus.
Disney Plus will include all of Disney's family-friendly and much of its mass-audience fare. It'll have content from Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and National Geographic. And, outside those traditional categories, it'll also offer all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, a new feather in its cap from the Fox takeover.
Approximately 7,000 episodes of television series and 400 to 500 movies are expected to be available on the service when it launches. Compared to Disney Plus’ biggest competitors, that’s not a lot. In terms of sheer numbers, Disney Plus falls short of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access, and HBO Go.
What Disney Plus lacks in volume, however, it’s making up in quality: Disney Plus will be the exclusive home to some of the biggest and most popular movies, shows, and franchises around. First and foremost among the content will be projects tied to Disney’s Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Disney-specific properties, with an overall family-friendly theme to the content.
Almost every single movie in the Disney catalog will eventually be available on the service, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger, dispensing with the so-called Disney “vault” that kept classic films locked away for extended periods. Disney Plus won’t just be a greatest-hits collection, though. There will be original content on the service, too.
Original Marvel shows planned for the service include individual series based on Hawkeye, Falcon and Winter Soldier, and Scarlet Witch and the Vision. A series following The Avengers villain Loki is also in the works, with the original MCU actors reprising their respective roles for the shows.
Another animated series called What If? will feature alternate-universe tales featuring MCU characters voiced by the live-action actors who portray them. The series will explore what would have happened if certain events in the MCU transpired differently.
Several original Star Wars projects are also in development including The Mandalorian, which is set between the events of The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and “will follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy.” There will also be a new concluding series to the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars franchise.
Disney Plus will launch November 12, 2019 and will start at $6.99 a month or $69.99 for the year. While the decision makes sense from the business perspective of Disney, I am concerned on the effect it is going to have on the industry, content creation, and viewing habits of the average audience member. Almost all of the content Disney plans to create for this service is remakes (Lady and the Tramp) or spin-offs of decade old franchises. The film industry has slowly been morphing into a factory of remakes and profitable nostalgia. I fear Disney Plus would put it over the edge and consumers will start pulling away from original content on Amazon (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and HBO (Game of Thrones) for shows like the Hawkeye spin off.
Disney Plus will not encourage filmmakers to write new, original, thought provoking content, but rather will incentives creatives to stick to a formula they know will work. Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney movies, and this platform can be a great addition for big families and a lot of kids ready to consume this kind of content. I just hope this service, and its offerings, do not overshadow originality and all of the new stories needing to be shared.
Also, Disney has yet to announce their distribution plans for upcoming films. Will we begin to see blockbusters going straight online? Regardless, Disney, and it’s new streaming service, is ready to make a huge splash in online streaming with a mix of classics, spin-offs, and (hopefully) original content.
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