Here’s everything we know about Disney Plus, the entertainment giant’s Netflix-like push into global streaming.
Disney is betting big on its 2019 streaming service called Disney Plus, and it put (almost) all its cards on the table last month. In a three-hour event, Disney revealed the release date, price, shows and movies planned for its Netflix competitor.
Disney CEO Bob Iger headlined the presentation that included demos of the Disney Plus app, an aggressive timeline to roll out worldwide, and trailers and behind-the-scenes footage of its exclusive shows, like the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian. It even threw in a new Avengers: Endgame clip for good measure.
But Disney’s last big reveal elicited a gasp from the crowd of investors, analysts and press there: The company priced Disney Plus at $7 a month, half the cost of HBO Now and a big discount to Netflix.
Much of the premium original programming planned for Disney Plus leans into the company’s big-budget franchises like Marvel and Star Wars. Some shows — like the live-action, big-budget The Mandalorian — have completed filming and will be available at launch. Other Marvel spinoffs, like a show based on Avengers character Loki and WandaVision featuring Scarlet Witch and Vision, will debut in the second year.
(BizTechHub has a comprehensive list of all the titles Disney confirmed will be on its streaming service.)
Oh, and the service will launch with every episode of The Simpsons!
So is the Disney Plus streaming service worth paying for? The details that we know so far are below, but basically: If you love Star Wars or Marvel movies or you have kids, you may find yourself considering yet another subscription before the year is out.
What’s the Disney streaming service?
The Disney Plus streaming service will be a competitor to video streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and — later this year — Apple TV Plus. It’s a paid subscription without any advertising, and it gives customers access a vast library of Disney’s and Fox’s legacy content as well as new, exclusive TV shows, movies and documentaries.
Disney wants its other streaming services — Hulu and sports-focused ESPN Plus — to run on the same tech platform so you can subscribe to them with the same password and credit card info. Disney plans for all three to be individual subscriptions, but it said it’s likely to bundle them at a discount.
Hulu will be where Disney streams more adult-oriented fare. For example, Hulu is where a new Marvel collection of grown-up animated series will stream, and it’s likely where Deadpool-like content will live now that Disney owns Fox. Hulu will continue to stream content from three of the broadcast networks and its own original series, like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock. (ESPN Plus will, clearly, focus on sports.)
Disney Plus will include all of Disney’s family-friendly and much of its mass audience fare. It’ll have content from Disney proper, Marvel, Lucasfilm (so, Star Wars), Pixar and National Geographic. And, outside those traditional categories, it’ll also offer all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, a new feather in its cap from the Fox takeover.
When’s the release date?
Disney Plus will launch on Nov. 12 in the US.
The timing is strategically smart. For one, Disney Plus can piggyback on the marketing for all of Disney’s big-budget films being released for the holiday season — Frozen 2 hits theaters Nov. 22 and Star Wars: Episode IX will be released Dec. 20.
But Netflix has also shown that the last couple of months of the year is when it tends to get some of its biggest viewership. Bird Box, the movie it says was viewed by more than 80 million accounts in its first month of release, came out Dec. 21. Bright, its fantasy crime flick starring Will Smith, was the company’s most-viewed film before Bird Box. It was released Dec. 13.
Globally, Disney plans a progressive rollout worldwide over two years. The company provided a generalized timeline for when it will launch in the world’s major regions, but it didn’t pinpoint any other specific launch dates except for that in the US.
So, for example, Disney Plus will launch in North America — which presumably includes Canada — during the last three months of this year, but we don’t know exactly when the Canadian service will be live. It’s unlikely the Canadian launch would precede the Nov. 12 launch date in the US.
In addition, Disney Plus is slated to roll out in:
- Western Europe over the course of six months between October this year and March of next year
- Eastern Europe over the course of a year starting as early as October 2020
- Latin America over the course of three months starting as early as October 2020
- Asia Pacific over the course of two years starting as early as October this year
How much will it cost?
Disney said the service will cost $7 a month, or $70 a year. Its price undercuts Netflix’s $13 monthly fee for its most popular plan in the US, which lets you stream to two different devices simultaneously in high definition.
Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine M. McCarthy hinted Disney Plus pricing may rise as the service advances, calling the $7-a-month fee an “initial” price. The company also said it’s likely to bundle Disney Plus with Hulu and ESPN Plus, offering a discount if you subscribe to two or three of its streaming options.
Way back in 2017, Iger noted that the price would reflect the “fact that it will have substantially less volume” than prime competitor Netflix. As Disney has time to funnel more exclusives and originals into Disney Plus, it’s a good bet the company will start tapping its price incrementally higher.
How can I stream it?
Disney Plus will support streaming to phones, tablets, computers, connected TVs and streaming media boxes, the company said. Disney specifically called out support for Roku TVs and the Playstation 4. Its presentation slides included photos of Chromecast, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, but the company hasn’t specifically confirmed those devices yet. Generally speaking, though, Disney’s goal is to have wide device support for Disney Plus by the service’s November launch.
Disney said that Disney Plus will be able to stream 4K and HDR content, but it hasn’t specified which titles, how much or whether those higher-quality formats will cost extra. It also hasn’t specified how many simultaneous streams are allowed on a single account.
Shows and movies: What will I be able to watch?
Disney Plus will include content from the Disney brand itself, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic. It’ll also integrate programming from Fox — all 30 seasons of The Simpsons will be on Disney Plus starting on day one, and more titles like The Sound of Music, The Princess Bride and Malcolm in the Middle will join it in the first year.
Disney Plus will be the only place you can stream all of Disney’s theatrically released movies starting with Captain Marvel at launch and the rest of its 2019 slate later on. Frozen 2, for example, will be streamable on the service next summer after its theatrical release in November. Disney Plus will also house the entire film libraries of Pixar, Star Wars and its Signature Series and Disney Vault lines of classic hand-drawn animated movies. (Think Bambi, The Lion King, Snow White and so on.)
And of course, the company is developing a big slate of original, exclusive shows and movies for the service.
Major originals include The Mandalorian, a big-budget series starring Pedro Pascal about a bounty-hunting gunfighter that takes place five years after the events in The Return of the Jedi. A Star Wars prequel series based on Rogue One will star Diego Luna, who played Cassian Andor in the original movie.
And Disney has three live-action series drawing the stars of its blockbuster Avengers movies into their own shows: a Loki series featuring Tom Hiddleston; The Falcon and The Winter Soldier with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, and WandaVision with Elizabeth Olsen in her role of Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany reprising The Vision.
Disney Plus will have original documentaries, reality shows, competition series, behind-the-scenes features, nature and adventure titles, animated programming — the list goes on.
Even though all of Disney’s movies will stream exclusively on Disney Plus, the company doesn’t plan to debut any of its big-budget motion pictures on the service. That’s what’s known as a day-and-date approach, which releases most of its films on big screens and on its streaming service at the same time, and it was Netflix’s strategy for years. Disney, however, plans for all its theatrical films like Star Wars and Marvel to run their course in theaters and home video before making them available with a digital subscription.
How will this affect Disney stuff on Netflix?
Disney will mostly disappear from Netflix by late 2019.
Since 2016, Netflix has been the first place to watch Disney’s movies with a subscription. That deal meant Netflix was the go-to place for the biggest US blockbusters of the last three years. The top two movies of 2017 and the top three movies of 2016 and 2018 were all from Disney, and Netflix has been the place to binge them all.
But Disney decided against renewing that Netflix deal as it plotted its own competitor. Starting with Disney’s 2019 slate of movies, all those films are destined for Disney Plus. That means Captain Marvel, the first movie Disney released theatrically in 2019, will be the first movie Netflix misses out on. It also means that Mary Poppins Returns should be the final Disney movie that will have some type of release window on Netflix.
Netflix’s Marvel Defenders shows are complicated, though. Netflix has put out five original series based on Defenders characters in partnership with Disney. In 2018, Netflix canceled three of them: Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Then in 2019, Netflix canceled the last two: The Punisher and Jessica Jones. Kevin Mayer, the Disney executive in charge of Disney Plus, has said Disney Plus could possibly revive the canceled shows. But the terms of their original deal could restrict Disney Plus from any revivals until 2020, according to a report.
A third, and now final, season of Jessica Jones is still set to arrive on Netflix sometime in 2019. But after that, all we know about the future of these characters is Marvel Television chief Jeph Loeb teasing fans that the characters will continue in some form. But the only thing for sure about that form right now: It won’t involve Netflix.
What shows and movies do you want to appear on Disney’s streaming service? Pop them into the comments section and we’ll keep updating this post with more information as it becomes available.