Disney has raised the curtain on a hotly anticipated video streaming service.
The service, called Disney Plus, has been in the works for more than a year, but Thursday marked the first time that the longtime entertainment powerhouse has laid out plans for its attack on Netflix and a formidable cast of competitors, including Amazon, HBO Go and Showtime Anytime.
Disney Plus will roll out in the US initially on 12 November at a price of US$6.99/month, or $69.99/year.
The price is well below the monthly fee Netflix charges for its most popular streaming plan, signalling Disney’s determination to woo subscribers as it vies to become a major player in a field that has turned “binge watching” into a common ritual.
Like Netflix, Disney Plus will be free of ads and subscribers will be able to download all of the shows and movies on Disney’s service to watch offline.
Netflix will still have a far deeper video programming line-up after spending tens of billions of dollars during the past six years on original shows such as House of Cards, Stranger Things and The Crown.
But Disney Plus will be able to draw upon a library of revered films dating back several decades while it also forges into original programming.
Its animated classics, including Aladdin and The Jungle Book, will be available on the service when it launches.
New shows already on tap include The Mandalorian, the first live action Star Wars series, created by Jon Favreau; a prequel to the Star Wars film Rogue One, starring Diego Luna; a series about the Marvel character Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston; a rebooted High School Musical series; and a new documentary series focused on Disney.
‘Position of strength’
Disney is approaching the streaming industry from a “position of strength, confidence and unbridled optimism”, CEO Bob Iger said. The service’s entire line-up will cover five categories: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
Although Disney has an enviable track record of producing shows and films that attract huge audiences, its attempt to build its own Netflix is risky.
To make the leap, Disney ended a lucrative relationship with Netflix, which had become the video streaming home for its latest films after their theatrical release, as well as many of its TV series and classic movies.
But now movies that came out in 2019, and going forward, will be streamed only on Disney Plus. That includes Captain Marvel, which came out earlier this year; Avengers: Endgame, which debuts in late April; and the upcoming Toy Story 4, live-action movies The Lion King and Aladdin; and Star Wars Episode IX.
Disney will also contend with a new streaming service from Apple, which is expected to be released in the northern hemisphere autumn. Apple has not yet said how much its service will cost or when exactly it will launch.
Disney said movies would become available on its streaming service only after the traditional cinema release period and home movie debut, which includes DVDs and purchasing streaming videos.
That puts its schedule behind that of some competitors. Netflix films such as the award-winning Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs have either become available for streaming on the same day or just a few days after their short runs in cinemas.
With nearly 140 million worldwide subscribers, Netflix has already proven its mettle while warding off one competitive threat after another in the 12 years since it pivoted from DVD-by-mail rentals to video streaming.
Now, Netflix is locking horns with a company that has been steadily expanding upon its Disney franchise during a shopping spree that has seen it snap up other major studios.