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Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Disney announces its future. And a new streamer.
A bonus ABW with the major news from today's Disney investor presentation
Today Disney held an online presentation for investors (and the media and, well, anyone who wanted to watch). We learned a lot about Disney and its ambitions over the next few years.
Big new shows. Big new movies. A big new international streaming service.
Let’s start with the boring stuff and then get to the sexy movie and TV announcements.
In March there is a price increase coming for Disney+. The US will see the monthly price increase a dollar to $7.99. In Continental Europe the price will rise to €8.99.
Monthly subscription: $11.99
Annual subscription: $119.99
Why the price rise? Two reasons:
The amount of money being spent on content is rising. By 2024 the company expects an annual spend of US$8-9 billion.
In areas outside the US the price is going up because of the addition of new streaming service Star.
(But also because of the content spend).
Want to avoid the price rise? Disney does offer annual subscriptions. Might be a smart idea to buy an annual subscription ahead of the price rise.
A Star is born
In Europe, Canada, Australia, & NZ
Disney will launch a new streaming service called Star. But… plot twist… it’s not stand-alone. Instead it will automatically be included in Disney+.
Think of Star as the international version of Hulu, which is to say that it is adult-orientated TV programs and movies.
It launches Feb 23. There’s no price yet for anyone outside of Europe, but I’d expect that in Australia (the editorial home of Always Be Watching), the price of Disney+ will go up $1-2.
Because Disney needs to protect its family-focused image, Star will appear as a tile on the home page. Users must then opt-in to see the content.
Once opted-in, the Star content will then populate the front page of Disney+, positioning titles like Atlanta, Die Hard, and Alien alongside traditional Disney fare. I assume that kids profiles will restrict that content.
In Latin America
The Star service will be different across Latin America where it will function as a standalone streaming service branded as Star+.
It launches in June an will include the same general entertainment focus as the Star product available elsewhere, but it’ll also include in live sports such as soccer and tennis.
New shows. New movies.
It was exhausting seeing so much hype. Much of it justified. What interested me most is the sheer volume of Star Wars and Marvel output. Some of these shows will be limited run shows, while others will be ongoing. The idea is to get to the stage where there’s a new episode of a big, buzzy show every week.
But here’s the big question I have: This is a lot of new Star Wars and a lot of new Marvel. Let’s say that I’m being served new Star Wars shows 25 weeks of the year, with another 20-odd weeks of Marvel - how enthused am I going to be about seeing the big new tentpole blockbuster film?
Somethings gotta give. This much nerd bait is great for subscriber retention, but will it dilute enthusiasm for the big screen outings? My comic-book loving pals occasionally skip the movies, saying they get their fill out of the monthly serialised adventures. Will this volume of serialised TV have the same impact?
Also, from a production standpoint - Bad Batch is a new animated series. But looking at it and considering how much of Star Wars is already CGI… I’m starting to not see a whole lot of distinction between the two anymore.
Shattered Glass star Hayden Christensen to return for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Read: THR
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia renewed for four more seasons. Read: THR
Random other thoughts
Four and a half hours of announcements was exhausting. Especially with so much already announced. But I reckon that share price got a solid bump. Even with the theme parks shuttered for the time being, there’s a lot to feel good about with Disney’s trajectory.
There was some subtext throughout a number of the segments of the presentation that became overt when the panel spoke live to investors at the end: So much of the Disney model is in flux and the current shape of it is built with the idea that the company may need to pivot. For example, this time last year Disney spoke about taking Hulu international. Now this year there is Star rolling out in different shapes globally.
Speaking of Hulu - a lot of the presentation was about the content appearing on Hulu, but the platform itself got way less attention than Disney+ did. Remember: Disney needs to payout a few billion to Comcast in the next few years so that it can buy-out the remaining share of Hulu. Is Disney just biding its time with Hulu to keep the value of it down ahead of the Comcast sale? Also - is that sale why Disney has launched the Star brand internationally, but sticking with Hulu in the US? One could easily imagine a Hulu rebrand and reboot take place post sale to bring it in line with the international product.
The Hulu logo certainly didn’t take a prominent place behind any of the execs speaking.
An interesting tidbit revealed at the end of the presentation: More people without kids are subscribers of Disney+ than those with kids.
On a personal note - After spending the week paying a lot of attention to HBO Max with its rich library of movie titles and TV shows and its 2021 slate of theatrical releases, and now today watching Disney flex its IP-driven muscle, it has me looking at Netflix and wondering what it is that I’m watching on that platform. Obviously, like many of you, I watch a lot of Netflix. But so little of it has connected with my soul in the way that Warner and Disney branded content has. There’s something missing with that streamer and it goes beyond heritage.
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