Disney to Move Its Classic Movies to New Streaming Service

At Disney’s annual meeting, chair/chief executive Bob Iger made several upbeat announcements to shareholders. First, he assured them that regulatory approval of the 21st Century Fox acquisition will close “soon” and that the expanded company will “hit the ground running.” He also revealed that Disney will debut its immersive Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge experience earlier than expected: May 31 at in Disneyland, and August 29 at Disney World. Other big news was that Disney Plus (also known as Disney+) will carry the company’s entire “Vault” program.

Variety reports that, “there were reports Thursday that Mexico’s telecom regulator has set a vote for Monday to give its approval of the [21st Century Fox] deal, which is believed to be the last outside hurdle before Disney and Fox can wrap up the final elements of the $71.3 billion transaction.” With the purchase, Disney “receives the keys to 20th Century Fox, FX Networks, National Geographic Partners and other assets.”

Iger also revealed that Disney plans to keep “some of the 20th Century Fox-related brand names alive for some productions … particularly on the movie side,” with the Fox and Fox Searchlight brands. FX will also keep its name. With regard to moving up the opening dates of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Iger said that it is “the most technologically advanced and immersive attraction we have ever imagined.”

The Verge reports that the Disney Plus streaming service will eventually comprise all the content of the Disney movie library, ending Disney’s practice of vaulting its classic movies. It notes that this is “a major policy change for the company.” Disney “currently cycles 34 movies in and out of the vault.” For Disney fans, immediate access to all of Disney’s movies is “a pretty big deal.” Disney’s first step in this direction was to remove its films from Netflix.

Availability to the entire vault will also be exclusively on Disney Plus, most likely unlike WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service, which will rely on HBO content. The Verge points out that this content “may not be exclusive to WarnerMedia … [but] could still be licensed to other services, like Amazon Video.”

“Our confidence in the resilient success of Disney+ comes from the company’s unmatched brand recognition, extensive premium content, and unparalleled ecosystem to market the service,” said CNBC analyst Alexia Quadrani. CNBC also reported that JPMorgan “is betting that Disney will eventually have 160 million subscribers worldwide … which is more than Netflix’s current 139 million.”

Disney Plus won’t just stream classic movies but also plans to “produce live-action series from popular franchises like Star Wars, Marvel, High School Musical, and Monsters, Inc.” Iger also reported that Disney Plus subscription fees will be “substantially less” than Netflix’s. The company will likely reveal more information on its investor day, April 11.

Related:
Disney’s Streaming Service Will Include Nearly 100 Years’ Worth of Disney Content, Quartz, 3/10/19