Disney Plus will launch Nov. 12 in the US for $7 a month, or $70 a year if you get an annual subscription. Disney revealed the launch date and price Thursday, while talking up the streaming service’s exclusive shows, including new Marvel and Star Wars adventures — and every episode of The Simpsons.
Its price undercuts Netflix’s $13 monthly fee for its most popular plan in the US, which lets you stream to two different devices simultaneously in high definition. Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine M. McCarthy hinted that Disney Plus pricing may rise as the service advances, calling the $7 monthly fee an “initial” price. The company also said it’s likely to bundle Disney Plus with Hulu and ESPN Plus, offering a discount if you subscribe to two or three of its streaming options.
“This is an exciting time; it’s also a challenging time,” Chief Executive Bob Iger said Thursday. But “deciding how to navigate this was not difficult for us,” he said, explaining that Disney is focused on its ocean of premium content and distributing it in different ways.
The news came during the entertainment giant’s two-hour-plus event to unveil Disney Plus and explain its wider streaming strategy. The presentation included a laundry list of new and original show announcements, early peeks at high-profile exclusives like Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian — and even offered glimpses at Disney’s biggest movie releases to come this year, including a scene from Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame.
After years of putting streaming in the back seat to protect its big-budget blockbusters and lucrative TV model, Disney has made streaming its top priority this year, even restructuring the company around it.
Disney Plus is the highest-profile example of traditional Hollywood going to extreme lengths to fortify against competition from digital powerhouses like Netflix, Amazon and — soon — Apple, which is launching its own Apple TV Plus service. Those deep-pocketed companies have been pouring money into their own TV shows and movies. Digital upstarts have fueled TV cord-cutting and, in Netflix’s case, tried to upend theatrical release norms for movies — all threats to the survival of companies like Disney.
From Disney’s projections, however, Netflix won’t be under threat for years.
Disney predicted it would reach 60 million to 90 million subscribers by the end of its 2024 fiscal year — Netflix already has swollen to nearly 140 million. And Disney predicted that its content spending would jump from $1 billion in its first year to $2 billion four years later. Netflix, by comparison, will spend an estimated $12 billion on content this year.
Content is king
But programming announcements were the star of the show on Thursday. Disney said it would release more than 25 original series and 10 new films, documentaries and specials in the first year of Disney Plus.
That includes some previously known titles, like its Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorianand a Rogue One prequel with Diego Luna reprising his role of Cassian Andor; the Marvel Studios series Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston; and a Pixar series Monsters at Work, returning to the world of Monsters Inc. after the events of the original film.
And Disney unleashed new information about rumored programs and unveiled previously unknown projects. It confirmed that its Loki series will be joined by other Marvel exclusives, like The Falcon and The Winter Soldier live-action series starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in their roles known from the Avengers franchise. A live-action WandaVision sees the return of Elizabeth Olsen to the role of Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany to The Vision character. And Marvel’s What If… will be the studio’s first animated series that will explore pivotal moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and flip its script.
Also in animation, Disney will premiere a documentary series about the making of Frozen 2, called Into the Unknown. (And parents take note: The much-anticipated sequel to Frozen will be available to stream on Disney Plus by the summer.) And Pixar will contribute Toy Story-based projects Forky Asks a Question and short film Lamp Life, featuring Bo Peep.
The event also served as a chance for Disney to flex its new access to Fox content, after it closed its $71.3 billion takeover of 21st Century Fox earlier this year.
In an announcement that drew an audible reaction from the crowd gathered on Disney’s studio lot, Disney Plus announced that all 30 seasons of The Simpsons would be available on the service on day one. In the first year, Fox titles like The Sound of Music, The Princess Bride, and Malcolm in the Middle will join it.
And Disney is also including libraries of already released franchise content. All the Star Wars movies will be there, as will all of Pixar’s.
All told, Disney Plus will have more than 7,500 television episodes and 500 films.
A tech venture
Disney also gave a demo of the Disney Plus app and answered questions about some crucial tech features.
In a godsend to parents whose childen cannot be placated on long-haul flights unless they’re watching their favorite Pixar movie (a.k.a. almost all parents), Disney Plus will allow unlimited downloads for offline viewing so long as you’re actively subscribed.
All of Disney’s theatrical releases will come to Disney Plus for streaming, but Disney said that this will be after their run in theaters — and after they’ve been sold for home viewing. Even though Disney’s windowing will protect the home viewing business selling DVDs, Blu-rays and iTunes-like downloads, the ability to download from Disney Plus will put some pressure on it. People will be weighing whether they should buy a copy of Frozen 2, Toy Story 4 or Captain Marvel, or just wait a little longer to watch through Disney Plus instead — and get everything else.
Disney Plus is also built with profiles, so your recommendations don’t get mixed up with those of other family members, and parental gating features, so young kids can be kept away from Marvel or Star Wars programming that’s still too mature for them to see.
Disney said that it’s pursuing wide device support, noting that the service will be streamable on phones, smart TVs, streaming boxes and game consoles. It confirmed Roku and Playstation 4 support.