By Disney’s own admission, the company is going to lose upwards of $150 million in annual revenue as it dissolves its licensing agreement with Netflix in order to keep its content in-house. Why would a bottom-line obsessed worldwide conglomerate toss away that much money? Because Disney CEO Bob Iger has read the tea leaves, and he is betting big on where the future of entertainment is heading, if not already arrived: online.
Disney will unveil its standalone streaming service, Disney+, by the end of 2019. Iger has already said that, initially, the service won’t cost as much as Netflix given the size disparity in their libraries. But that doesn’t mean Disney+ is going to be a barren wasteland of minimal content. By the way Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, describes it, every single branch under the Mouse House will be developing exclusives for the platform.
“The service will accommodate both film and television product, so each of the entities that is under my umbrella is charged with the challenge or responsibility of coming up with programming that can go directly to the service,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
The laundry list of big-name entities Horn oversees includes Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, Disney Animation Studios and Disney’s live-action efforts. Soon, major entertainment assets from 20th Century Fox—including the blockbuster Avatar franchise—will also be under his purview.
Already, Disney+ has lined up a handful of eye-catching projects, including two live-action Star Wars series, multiple Marvel limited series headed by familiar faces such as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlett Witch, and a handful of original projects that run the gamut from classic Disney (Lady and the Tramp) to less theatrical efforts. What the streaming service will lack in volume will be made up for by pure franchise power and family-friendly appeal.
“Bob has said the service is now his No. 1 priority,” Horn said. “Netflix and companies like Amazon represent the great disruption in our business and a seismic shift in consumer offerings and viewing patterns. The interesting thing, which is not resolved yet, is how big is the consumer appetite for these incremental services? I like our chances.”
In terms of muscling into the crowded streaming wars and eventually taking a bite out of the market leader’s business, so do we.