In a move that I’m sure caught many Disney fans totally by surprise, the House of the Mouse has announced that they are pulling all of their movies from Netflix, after having inked a deal with Netflix making them exclusive rights for their films, in an attempt to start its own direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.
Disney will be paying $1.58 billion to acquire an additional 42% state in BAMTech, LLC, a global leader in direct-to-consumer streaming technology and marketing services, data analytics, and commerce management, from MLBAM, the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball, and in doing so this will give them a majority ownership, which will also launch its ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018.
The ESPN-branded multi-sport service will offer a robust array of sports programming, featuring approximately 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year, including Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and college sports. Individual sport packages will also be available for purchase, including MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live.
But it’s not the sports information you’re interested in gentle reader, yes? “What is this about Disney content,” I hear you ask?
The new Disney-branded service will become the exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 theatrical slate, which includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and The Lion King from Disney live-action, along with other highly-anticipated movies. Disney will also make a significant investment in an annual slate of original movies, TV shows, short-form content and other Disney-branded exclusives for the service. Additionally, the service will feature a vast collection of library content, including Disney and Pixar movies and Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television programming.
By doing this Disney plans to end its distribution agreement with Netflix beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate of films.
Now with this move by Disney, there is no doubt some questions regarding Marvel, and since Disney owns that company, will there be a Marvel/Netflix breakup? Well according to Disney CEO Robert Iger during an earnings call, he did say that each of those brands is being “considered” for stand-alone streaming services.
Disney’s first priority is to pull their Disney and Disney/Pixar-branded films from Netflix and bring them to the above-mentioned streamed service, and which Iger says the company will invest heavily in. At present, there are no specific plans to move Marvel and Lucasfilm material to that service, although the company has not yet closed the door on the idea.
“There’s been talk of launching a proprietary Marvel service and Star Wars service, but we are mindful of the volume of content that would go into that service,” Iger told investors, suggesting that they don’t want to create a service so specialized that fans will not get value for their subscription.
He said that while Disney would continue to work with existing partners until a final decision is made.
“Disposition of Marvel and Star Wars will be announced at a later date when we know what we want to do,” Iger added.
The family-friendly Disney brand makes the studio unique among major movie studios; while no major competitor has nearly the intellectual property library that Disney has, nobody else has the same kind of branding associated with their name, either. That could impact the process, as Iger said that Disney is currently looking into how much overlap there is between the Marvel and Star Wars fandoms with classic Disney fans.
DC Entertainment will launch a similar service in 2018. The details are not yet clear, except that there are two new series — a revival of the fan-favorite animated series Young Justice, and a live-action Titans series that centers on Dick Grayson and his peers — will be included with the DC service.
Do you see this as a big money grab scheme by Disney to milk the consumer even more for this content, or is it a clever way to make Disney films, and possibly even Marvel and Lucasfilm movies just that much more accessible to a clearly hungry audience wanting all of that content at their fingertips? Would you buy into such a service? If multiple services are created, how many would you be willing to subscribe to? Is this also another nail in the coffin for broadcast television?
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