Well that didn’t last long. Back in 2012, Disney struck a pretty huge deal with Netflix to provide new releases exclusively to the streaming service. But in an earnings call today, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney will discontinue this practice in favor of launching its own streaming service in 2019, which will host a cadre of Disney movies and Disney-owned television series aimed at kids.
The 2012 deal ensured that new Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm movies would be heading to Netflix in short order after release, and indeed films like Moana, Captain America: Civil War, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story are on the streaming service right now. But starting in 2019, new releases will head directly to Disney’s new streaming service instead of Netflix, starting with Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, and The Lion King.
The news comes along with word that Disney is acquiring a majority of BAMTech, the streaming technology company owned by Major League Baseball, for a whopping $1.58 billion. They’ll be using this technology to not only launch the Disney streaming service in 2019, but also an ESPN streaming service early next year.
It’s unclear how this impacts the current library of titles. Netflix licenses the movies it hosts, so it’s possible that the licenses for new Disney movies through 2018 extend beyond 2019 and you’ll still be able to watch things like The Jungle Book or Inside Out even after Disney launches its streaming service. Or it’s possible those licenses will expire and will depart sometime before or shortly after Disney’s new streaming service launches.
While this is a bummer for Netflix subscribers, it’s a pretty brilliant business move by Iger and Disney. Launching an all-Disney streaming service that offers your children a variety of Disney films and TV will no doubt be popular, and it’ll be interesting to see how competitive they’ll get with pricing.
However, as Iger explains, while Disney will for sure be putting all of its Disney and Pixar new releases on the streaming service, it hasn’t decided what it will do with its Marvel and Lucasfilm titles just yet:
“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.”
This is a roundabout way of saying it’s possible that Disney launches a separate streaming service for Lucasfilm and a separate service for Marvel, or it may continue to license those titles to Netflix or another streaming service. The former is more likely, because that means Disney gets more bang for its buck—especially if it decides to finally pull the trigger on that live-action Star Wars TV series exclusively on Disney’s proprietary Lucasfilm streaming service.