Disney Looks to Major Franchises for First Streaming Content

The Walt Disney Company has revealed some of the details regarding its upcoming streaming service, slated for launch in the second half of 2019. Debuting on the new service will be television series based on “Star Wars,” “Monsters Inc.,” “High School Musical” and Marvel, currently under development. Disney chief executive Bob Iger also disclosed that the service will be priced substantially less than Netflix, in part because it will have less content at its introduction. However, Iger noted that the price could increase as Disney adds more content.

The Wall Street Journal explained that, “by placing such premium content there, rather than on its cable channels or ABC network, the company is signaling that it views the direct-to-consumer offering as a high priority.”

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Iger also announced that Rian Johnson, writer/director of “The Last Jedi” is in development on “a brand new Star Wars trilogy.” ESPN will launch ESPN Plus, “part of a redesigned ESPN app that includes sports scores and highlights” as well as cable network content “available only to people with a pay-TV subscription.”

According to The Verge, Iger’s announcement about new TV series means that, “Disney [is] winning the online streaming service wars without firing a single shot.” Since content is “the great differentiator” among streaming services, exclusive content is key. But “licensed exclusivity isn’t a stable platform upon which to build a business” because “any deal can be altered or broken … which is why original programming has become such an incredible focus for streaming services.”

Iger has built Disney’s “movie-business dominance on the power of multi-billion-dollar acquisitions” with Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm, seeing “astronomical” returns. According to Iger, “the average global box office for Disney’s animated movies is now more than $665 million.”

That opens the possibility “where almost all of our blockbuster entertainment comes from a single source,” and could raise “a question of whether its service will so radically reset consumer expectations in the streaming market that a $9.99 Netflix subscription just won’t seem like a value any longer.”