Disney+ is looming over the streaming industry, like the star destroyer in the opening scene of Star Wars: A New Hope. The House of Mouse’s streaming platform is due to be launched in November 2019 and, there’s no doubt, it will change the streaming landscape. Recently, Disney has been on a buying spree, purchasing Lucas Film, Marvel, and most recently, 20th Century Fox. Disney now has an irresistible lineup of intellectual property, back catalogue, and franchises which print money.
It was during Disney’s financial calls in August that Disney’s plans finally become clearer. They proposed a bundle that encompassed not only the Disney+ services but Hulu and ESPN for a very palatable $12.99 (£10.78). Disney+ is going to be the mouse’s family-friendly service, that encompasses everything Disney pictures, 20th Century Fox, Marvel Studios, and Star Wars. Hulu, which Disney currently owns 90% of, but will soon own 100%, will be for more mature audiences. FX, which is a division of Fox, and Marvel TV (who were responsible for the Netflix Marvel Universe and not the MCU) will also have a presence on there. Then there are sports, which up until now has been the hardest thing for customers ‘cutting the cord,’ to obtain. $12.99 is a great deal for the three services and it’s going to be hard to compete against.
But it’s how the movie giant sees the future of the movie industry that will shape the future of entertainment. Disney envisions the cinema as a place for its biggest blockbusters, and everything else will end up on its streaming platforms. The ‘traditional’ movie has been going through a transformation as of late, where studios want to bet on sure-fire franchises rather than bankroll smaller, riskier films. This could mean that we might see a resurgence of mid-tier films on Disney+. It’s finally looking as if there’s a realisation that there is room for TV and Film to still coexist.
Disney+ maybe a win for the small to mid-budget filmmakers, who have had no other outlet for their stories other than TV, but Disney+ isn’t great news for the multiplex or independent cinema, whom could lose access to a whole subsection of releases, and have to bow down to the already very powerful Disney. Disney already dictates the terms of release windows between when the film is shown in cinemas and when it’s released into the home. Time will tell whether this is good or bad, but there is something to say about the cinema and the communal viewing experience. How movie theatres adapt to this trend is yet to be seen.
Disney’s plan becomes even more obvious when you look at Marvel Studios new phase 4 slate which is split equally between theatrical releases and Disney+ TV shows. It’s going to become almost a certainty that in order to be up to date with all things Marvel you’re going to have to pay Disney at least $6.99 a month, which is far more enticing to the movie studio than selling customers a $10 movie ticket three times a year.
Disney is going to set the gold standard for streaming services. For years, Netflix has been the streaming king, but even the king can be overthrown. We’re seeing a consolidation of media companies from the mega-deal of Disney and Fox to Viacom and CBS merging, having the biggest back catalogue and the most intellectual property is becoming the most important factor for any self-respecting studio. Disney foresaw this trend, and it bet big, forgoing the upfront gains from selling their properties to other vendors, and delaying the gratification for that sweet sweet subscription revenue.
But people’s wallets are not infinite and it’s yet to be seen whether the general public will pay for 4, 5 or even 6 streaming platforms. Time will tell whether their Disney+ will be successful, it’s got a fighting chance, but other services will be biting at its heels. It’s certainly an interesting time for the film, TV, and what it means to be entertained.