A few days ago, the surprising-yet-not-surprising news came that Disney was acquiring a majority stake in a streaming technology company and planning on launching its own streaming service in 2019. Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed that starting with 2019’s new releases like Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and The Lion King, Disney movies would be streaming exclusively on this new service. This came in the wake of an agreement Disney struck with Netflix in 2012 that secured Netflix as the exclusive streaming home to Disney and Disney-owned new releases from Marvel and Lucasfilm, but clearly Disney realized that instead of paying someone to host their films on streaming, they could reap huge benefits by creating their own streaming service.
The big question mark here was what this meant for Marvel and Lucasfilm movies, as Iger only singled out Disney and Pixar movies as the films that would launch (at least initially) on this new streaming service in 2019. At the time, Iger proposed the possibility of launching separate streaming services for Marvel and Lucasfilm movies:
“There’s been talk about launching a proprietary Marvel service and Star Wars service,” Iger says. “But we’re mindful of the volume of product that would go into those services. And we want to be careful about that. We’ve also thought about including Marvel and Star Wars as part of the Disney-branded service. But there we want to be mindful of the Star Wars fan, the Marvel fan, and to what extent those fans either overlap with Disney fans or are completely separate and incremental to Disney. So it’s all in discussion.”
But now, in speaking with Reuters, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandons reveals that the streaming service is “still in active discussions” with Disney about the possibility of securing a deal to retain the rights to stream Marvel and Lucasfilm releases on Netflix after 2019. Now that doesn’t mean these discussions will lead to a deal, and I don’t really think the chances are strong, but it’s clear Netflix wants to maintain the streaming rights to Marvel and Lucasfilm new releases.
Whether that’s in Disney’s best interest is the main question, and if the Mouse House wanted to use a Lucasfilm streaming service to, say, launch a brand new—and exclusive—live-action Star Wars TV series, the cost/benefit of a Lucasfilm streaming service seems pretty profitable. Alternatively, if Disney wants to just focus on this Disney service first, they could extend their Netflix deal for a year or two.
Marvel is a different matter, as Netflix already hosts live-action Marvel TV series and one imagines Disney couldn’t bring Daredevil or Jessica Jones with it to a new streaming service. So it’s also possible that Disney extends its Netflix license for Marvel movies while concluding its Lucasfilm deal.