Disney+ arrives in less than a month, but the “Plus” in “Disney Plus” might as well be a dollar sign. “Disney$” is reportedly plunking down $1 billion in original programming alone, though the bulk of that budget goes to new stories in well-known and established franchises. Chief among them are the Star Wars story The Mandalorian and the serialized Marvel mini-movies The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Hawkeye, with the latter being the most expensive of the comic series since it features eight episodes to the others’ six.
Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger is bullish on their potential as the streaming wars heat up. Here’s what Iger had to say about The Mandalorian in a chat about the future of streaming with THR:
“[There’s] nothing like it on the air. If you’re going to do a live-action Star Wars series, this is the way to do it.”
But the Star Wars series will only make up a relatively small fraction of the $1 billion venture into original productions. THR reports that The Mandalorian is rumored to cost $15 million an episode; at eight episodes (so far), that tallies up to $120 million. That’s a steal compared to the Marvel properties that are lined up.
Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision and Hawkeye at as much as $25 million per episode, totaling $500 million, though how you spend $200 million on Hawkeye alone is anyone’s guess. Pretty pricey for TV, though Disney+ brass has previously touted movie-sized budgets for their programs, but there’s a hidden cost. Disney is reportedly buying out the backend on all of their original productions, similar to Netflix’s model. Essentially, this means they’ll offer creatives (and possibly lead cast members) more money up front in order to secure future earnings in perpetuity. Backend deals for super sitcoms in the past, like Seinfeld, continue to pay dividends even now; not so in the future of streaming stories under the likes of Netflix and Disney+. That explains some of the beefy budgets.
The remaining $380 million of original programming goes to titles like Encore, hosted by Kristen Bell and seeing adults return to the stage to perform reunions of their high school musicals; the company-friendly employee follow-alongs in One Day at Disney; and the upcoming live-action launch titles like the Christmas story Noelle and the redone classic Lady and the Tramp.
There’s much more to be explored as Disney+ rolls out, but for now, this is what we know about what will be available on Disney Plus, how long it will take Disney movies to arrive on the platform, and, who knows, maybe even a holiday special. Stay tuned.