It’s conquered theme parks, it’s conquered the box office charts, 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 service that’s taking on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Disney’s new streaming platform will be a one-stop shop for all the content the House of Mouse has to offer. When it launches in November 2019, it will deliver content from Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, 20th Century Fox and more straight to the home.
While plenty of info has been announced, there are a still a number of loose ends to be tied up. Disney has announced countries that will get Disney Plus first, though the UK wasn’t on that list. Prices have been announced, but only for the confirmed launch territories.
We also know which platforms will be getting Disney Plus when it goes live, although curiously Amazon Fire TV has been left off that list.
There’ll be plenty more info to come as Disney Plus nears its release date. For now, here’s everything we know about the upcoming streaming service.
Disney Plus — At a glance
Kevin Mayer, head of Disney’s Direct-to-Consumer & International unit, gave stakeholders their first look at the Disney Plus app and interface and it was very much Disney’s take on Netflix.
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 grid system used by Netflix has worked well for most other streaming services, with rows of recommended and freshly added content becoming the de facto look.
One thing that Disney won’t be doing that Netflix does – or at least, doesn’t discourage – is account sharing. Disney has teamed up with US cable giant Charter to mitigate unauthorized password sharing. That sounds rather harsh, not to mention tricky, to implement.
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.
Disney already has a video streaming service in the UK, Spain, France, Italy and Germany called DisneyLife. Reports suggest as soon as Plus launches that it will be retired. As Disney hasn’t revealed the launch date for these countries, there could be some life in the service yet.
Disney Plus — Launch date
Disney Plus is out November 12 in the US. It’s also launching in Canada and the Netherlands on the same day, with Australia and New Zealand getting the service a week later on the 19th.
What about the rest of the world? For now, Disney is remaining shtum about that.
We knew the launch of Disney Plus would be staggered – Disney CEO Bob Iger expects the service to rollout around the world within two years. Nevertheless, the selection of countries for the initial launch raises an eyebrow.
We had assumed Disney Plus would arrive in the UK before Christmas. However, we would have thought that would have been announced by now.
We’re not expecting it to take two years for Disney Plus to arrive in the UK, but 2020 seems more likely. With Sky’s contract with Disney expiring in 2020, it’s possible Disney is waiting for this to elapse before launching the service.
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Disney Plus — Platforms
When it was revealed, Disney Plus appeared to be on every platform you could wish for. It looks like that was more hopeful than concrete.
Since the announcement of the service, Disney has been negotiating agreements with a number of streaming platforms and the list of confirmed platforms stands at Apple TV, Android mobile and OS TV; Chromecast, iPad, iPhone, PS4, Roku streaming players and Xbox One.
Conspicuous by its absence is Amazon Fire TV. An agreement could still be in the offing, but the relationship between Amazon and Disney is tetchy to say the least.
Offline download privileges are also expected for everything in the Disney Plus library, much like it works on DisneyLife.
Disney Plus — Price
In the US, Disney Plus will cost $6.99 a month ($69.99 per year); for Canada its $8.99 ($89.99 a year). Dutch subscribers will have to pay €6.99 per month (€69.99 per year), while viewers in Australia and New Zealand will need to stump up A$8.99 (A$89.99 per year) and NZ$9.99 (NZ$99.99) respectively.
That works out to a little under £6 a month and (£60 per year) at current exchange rates. But with Brexit coming, that could change. Disney has said that it wants the service will be cheaper than Netflix.
Netflix does, of course, use pricing tiers, whereas Disney seems to be going for one size fits all.
Does that mean content will be available in HD, or will 4K be an option? Considering Disney has a number of films in 4K Dolby Vision on US streaming site Vudu, surely 4K is on the menu? So far, nothing has been hinted at.
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Disney did announce a new pricing bundle of Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu (with ads) for $12.99. That bundle won’t be coming to the UK due to rights issues, but it is an indication of Disney’s aim to undercut the competition.
Disney will be offering a discount on Disney Plus subscriptions, but to take advantage of it, you need to be a Gold member of the D23 Disney Fan Club. It seems to only apply to US customers, and those who take Disney up on the offer – and it’s only available from August 25 to September 2nd – will pay $47 per year for the service.
Disney Plus — TV 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 with it the library of a massive Hollywood studios with decades of content.
In year one Disney intends to launch 25 original episodic series and more than 10 movie specials. 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 Falcon and the Winter Soldier will hit first in 2020, with WandaVision and Loki 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. The likes of Michael B Jordan, Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Samuel L Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Rooker, Hayley Atwell and many more will reprise their roles.
Jeremy Renner will star 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 took on the mantle of Hawkeye from Clint Barton.
If you’re holding out hope for Netflix Marvel series to be resurrected on Disney Plus, that remains doubtful for now.
And what about more mature content appearing on the service? Early signs suggest that’s unlikely. Like Apple TV Plus, Disney is targeting families with the service.
Rumours have circulated that mature content will stream on Hulu in the US. As there’s no UK equivalent, unless Disney signs a deal with Sky, that’s another thing that’s still to be resolved.
If you haven’t tired of Star Wars, then you’ll be happy to know that The Mandalorian is coming to the platform. Iron Man and The Lion King remake director Jon Favreau is involved, with Dave Filoni, Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa, Bryce Dallas Howard and Taika Waititi directing episodes.
The Mandalorian features Pedro Pascal in the title role, and focuses on a gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy. So far, so Western. The Mandalorian is from the same race as Jango and Boba Fett and as it’ll be the first ever Star Wars live action TV show, it’ll be interesting to see the direction Lucasfilm takes with the series.
Alan Tudyk and Diego Luna will return as Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor and snarky droid K-2SO in the currently Untitled Star Wars Cassian Andor series.
Disney’s vault of content will be available to stream from the get-go, granting access to movies like Bambi and The Lion King. 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean and TRON: Legacy will also be available.
There’s a High School Musical TV show, and a previous Disney investment call suggested that the company is ending 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 film 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.
And thanks to the purchase of 20th Century Fox, Disney has a treasure trove of content to supplement its own library. That means The Simpsons, Avatar, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Princess Bride and other classic TV shows and films can be seen on the service.
During a recent investor call, CEO Bob Iger said that several of Fox’s bigger hits of the past few decades will be receiving straight-to-service sequels: they include Home Alone, Night at the Museum, Cheaper by the Dozen and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of the Disney strategy Disney will employ with a venerable and proud studio in 20th Century Fox.
With D23 Expo about to take place, we’ll be updating this page as more info becomes available.