It’s conquered theme parks, it’s conquered the Hollywood box office charts and now Disney has set its sights on conquering the living room with its new OTT (over-the-top) streaming service Disney Plus. Here’s what you need to know about the TV service that’s taking on the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
A couple of years after its first announcement, Disney revealed its new OTT service − a streaming platform that will encompass all the content that Disney has to offer from Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, 20th Century Fox and more − straight to your home. Read on for the skinny on what Disney Plus is all about.
Disney Plus — At a glance
Kevin Mayer, the head of Disney’s direct-to-consumer unit, gave investors their first look at the Disney Plus app and interface earlier this year, and it was very much Disney’s take on Netflix.
The grid system has worked well for just about every streaming service so far, and the rows of recommended, new or freshly added content here wouldn’t look out of place on any of the big streaming platforms.
One big difference that has emerged between it and Netflix is Disney’s approach to account sharing. Disney will not put up with password sharing. In the US, at least.
Disney has teamed up with US cable giant Charter to mitigate unauthorized password sharing, which goes against the grain and sounds rather harsh, not to mention tricky, to implement.
You may not know that Disney already has a video streaming service in the UK and Ireland, called DisneyLife. As soon as Disney Plus launches, reports suggest that service will go the way of the dodo. This hasn’t been officially confirmed, but expect it to happen.
Disney Plus — Launch date
We know that Disney Plus has been pencilled in for a release date of November 12 in the US. We also know it’s going to launch in Canada and the Netherlands on the same day, with Australia and New Zealand arriving on the 19th November. For the rest of the world it’s still up in the air when the service will appear.
We knew the Disney Plus launch would be staggered – Disney CEO Bob Iger expects the service to rollout around the world within two years. Nevertheless, the selection of countries raises an eyebrow.
We had assumed Disney Plus would arrive in the UK before Christmas, and that could still be the case. However, it’s looking likely that it’ll launch in these territories first, with an expansion to follow in early 2020.
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Disney Plus — Platforms
The presumption is that Disney Plus will be as ubiquitous as Netflix. That certainly seemed to be the case during its reveal when a promotional image (above) circulated with the platforms Disney Plus expected to be on.
It looks as if it was more hopeful than concrete. Since the announcement of the service, Disney has been negotiating agreements with a number of streaming platforms.
The list of confirmed platforms stands at Apple TV, Android mobile devices, Android OS TV, Chromecast web browsers, iPad, iPhone, PS4, Roku streaming players, Roku TV and Xbox One. Conspicuously by their absence is Amazon Fire TV products, which featured in the promotional image Disney release last year but has dropped off the list. An agreement could still be in the offing, but the relationship between Amazon and Disney is currently not the best.
The promotional image even shows the Nintendo Switch, but how achievable that is remains inconclusive considering Netflix hasn’t made it onto the Switch yet.
Offline download privileges are also planned for everything in the Disney Plus library.
Disney Plus — Price
Disney has slapped a $6.99 monthly price on the service, but for now has only announced US pricing.
That works out to a little under £6 a month, and less than £60 a year at current exchange rates, but with the pound falling against the dollar, that could change. The service will be cheaper than Netflix in the US.
Netflix does, of course, offer pricing tiers, whereas Disney seems to be going for one standalone price for access to all its content. Does that mean content will be available in just HD, or will there be a 4K option available? Considering Disney has released a batch of its titles in 4K Dolby Vision on US Vudu, surely 4K will be on the menu? So far, nothing has been hinted at.
Disney recently announced a new pricing bundle of Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu (with ads) for $12.99. Though that won’t be coming to the UK, it seems a good indication that Disney is aiming to make Disney Plus a tempting proposition with its low price.
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Disney Plus — Shows and movies
What will you be able to watch on Disney Plus? Or rather, what won’t you be able to watch? Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox brought it the library of two massive Hollywood studios together with decades of content.
We know that in year one Disney intends to launch 25 original episodic series and more than 10 movie specials on the service. Over 7500 TV episodes are set to be made available, with more than 400 films from the Disney library and over 100 recent titles. That’s a whole load of bang for your buck.
We know Marvel is throwing its weight behind the service with a number of original series. The first titles will be The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Loki. Falcon arrives in the autumn of 2020, with the other two titles dated for 2021.
At Comic-Con 2019, Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, revealed a What If? animated series, with many of the actors in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) returning to voice their characters (no mention of Robert Downey Jr or Chris Evans). The likes of Michael B Jordan, Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Samuel L Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Rooker, Hayley Atwell and many more are reprising their roles.
Jeremy Renner in Hawkeye, which will offer background to his Ronin character from Endgame. It’s also expected to feature the Kate Bishop character from the comics, who went on to take the mantle of Hawkeye from Clint Barton. If you’re still holding out hope the Netflix Marvel series will be resurrected on Disney Plus, that remains doubtful for now.
And, on a side note, as the Netflix series were mature on tone, will Disney Plus also offer mature content? Early signs suggest that’s unlikely. Like Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus is targeting families. Rumours have circulated that in the US, mature content will stream on Hulu. As there’s no UK equivalent, who knows if that will be the case.
If Marvel isn’t your bag, what about Star Wars? The Mandalorian is coming to the platform. Jon Favreau of Iron Man fame is involved in the series, which will focus on the bounty hunters from Star Wars lore, the same race as badass Jango Fett and his son and Sarlacc snack Boba Fett. It’s the first ever Star Wars live action TV show, so it’ll be worth a watch, and it premieres with the launch of Disney Plus.
Alan Tudyk and Diego Luna, last seen in Star Wars prequel Rogue One, return as Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor and snarky droid K-2SO. Considering how those characters fared in that film, this is a prequel to a prequel.
We haven’t even touched on Disney proper yet. Disney’s signature collection will be available to stream from the get-go, giving you access to movies like Bambi and The Lion King. Movies like 2010’s Alice in Wonderland will also be available.
There’s a High School Musical TV show, and a previous Disney investment call suggested that the company is going to end its Vault policy — which stopped you buying or viewing certain movies except when they were in rotation — before the launch of Disney Plus.
A new live action of Lady and the Tramp is on the way and let’s not shortchange National Geographic, which will have series such as Gordon Ramsay’s Uncharted and The World According to Jeff Goldblum available.
All in all, there’s a considerable amount of content here. If the promo images are any indication, Disney is going to divide up its biggest properties into five separate hubs that sit at the top of the storefront: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
The name Disney Plus fits into Disney’s recent direction of adding plus to its online streaming services. It also brings a few comparisons to Apple TV Plus, which launches around the same time at a similar price and far less content.
With D23 Expo around the corner, we’ll be updating this page as more info arrives.