It’s no secret that Disney CEO Bob Iger sees the company’s upcoming streaming service as a crucial part of the company’s larger strategy, and a new report from Variety reveals what he has been calling the project: Disney Play.
Currently slated to launch in late 2019, Disney Play is the company’s answer to Netflix, a direct-to-consumer streaming service that will feature an assortment of exclusive Disney library titles as well as a robust lineup of original TV shows and films created just for the service. Development and production are already well underway for the original productions, which include new episodes of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a new live-action Star Wars series from Jungle Book and Iron Man director Jon Favreau, and shows based on both the High School Musical and Monsters, Inc. franchises.
But as Variety’s report lays out, Disney’s move here is ultimately reactive. The company is trying to catch up with an entertainment landscape that has radically shifted, thanks to Netflix’s disruptive presence. With an ever-ballooning original content budget — The Economist recently estimated that the service will spend up to $13 billion on original programming in 2018 — Netflix has redefined the way films and television shows are made as well as the ways audiences are consuming them. During the company’s latest earnings call, Iger said the new streaming service will be “the biggest priority of the company during calendar 2019,” underscoring how crucial the potentially named Disney Play will be to the company’s long-term strategic success.
That said, while Disney has a tremendous library of content to pull from across its long history, moving everything to the service will be a multistep, gradual process. The original content will be exclusive to the service, of course, but existing deals — like the estimated $200 million Star Wars pact Disney struck with Turner in 2016 — will keep the service from being the exclusive home of all things Disney-related for years to come. Disney is also taking a financial hit for the deals it has brought to a close, like its previous deal with Netflix, which is thought to have been worth around $300 million annually to the studio.
Disney seems well aware of both the transition it faces and the perception problem it could have when launching a service that isn’t a one-stop shop for everything the company’s various brands have to offer. One way it plans to combat that is via pricing: Iger is already stating that this new service will cost less than Netflix upon launch.
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