How Netflix Canada Scored ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

By Evan DeSimone

If you’re one of those people who threatens to move to Canada every election year then you might want to speed up your plans. In 2016, Canadian Netflix subscribers will be able to stream Disney’s highly-anticipated sequel “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The deal, which is unique to Netflix Canada, is the result of a fluke in the timing of Disney’s pay TV distribution deals in the country. In the United States, premium cable channel Starz holds the distribution rights on all Disney releases through 2015. Since “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is set to hit theatres on Dec. 18, that makes Starz the official pay TV home of the film. While Netflix’s streaming deal with the Mouse doesn’t kick off until 2016, it includes any 2015 releases that bow after Disney’s deal with previous partners Corus Entertainment and Bell Canada expire, allowing Netflix to grab one of the year’s buzziest films.

Under the deal, Netflix will begin streaming “Star Wars” eight months after it leaves theatres, so Canadian Netflix subscribers will still have an incentive to catch the film during its initial theatrical release. U.S. subscribers won’t be able to catch the new film on Netflix any time soon, but they may soon have access to the rest of the space saga. Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos has expressed an interest in licensing the previous six star wars films from Disney, and there’s a precedent: just last month Disney agreed to just such a deal with Chinese streaming platform Tencent Video.

One place the “Star Wars” films won’t be showing up is nascent European streaming service DisneyLife. While DisneyLife will offer huge swaths of Disney’s extensive media library to subscribers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, “Star Wars” won’t be part of the package, and nor will the company’s blockbuster Marvel movie mega-franchise. Instead, those properties may be in line to receive their own dedicated streaming services according to comments from Disney CEO Bob Iger in connection with the DisneyLife release. In the meantime, fans can find both properties on Disney’s cloud-based VOD service Disney Movies Anywhere.

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