Disney To Launch A Subscription Streaming Service In Europe, Hints That Marvel & Star Wars Services Could Follow In U.S.

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Disney will launch a digital subscription streaming service next month which will combine its movies, books, TV series, and music offerings into one bundle, according to a report today from The Financial Times. The service, called DisneyLife, will include TV shows from the Disney Channel, classic movies like Snow White, Lady and the Tramp and The Jungle Book, as well as content from the complete Pixar catalog, like Toy Story. 

The service, however, is aimed the European market, with a launch in the U.K. followed by expansions across Europe in 2016, to reach countries including France, Spain, Italy and Germany.

At launch, Disney plans on charging £9.99 a month for access to the content, which will be made available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The service does not currently include content from other major Disney properties, like Star Wars or Marvel, Disney CEO Bob Iger told The FT, but he noted that DisneyLife could lay the groundwork for additional subscription services for those properties in the future.

The idea with DisneyLife, the exec also explained, is to take better control of Disney’s content and distribution – that is, Disney aims to “reach consumers directly and not through middleman,” Iger said. In addition, the service will deliver Disney content to consumers the way they want to watch – via apps, on-demand, and in a different format than with linear television.

“There’s so much more texture to [using the app] and it takes advantage of what technology is enabling these days — whereas a linear channel doesn’t,” Iger told The FT. “There’s nothing wrong with linear television but that’s one of the reasons why the app experience is going to grow.”

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While this type of service is clearly the sort of thing that could attract subscribers in the U.S. market, Disney’s agreements with satellite and cable TV companies on distribution would overlap with DisneyLife, the report noted, which is why the U.S. will not be included at launch. However, Disney has fewer of those sorts of agreements in Europe.

And as Variety additionally pointed out, Netflix has the pay TV window rights to Disney theatrical releases for the U.S., beginning at the end of next year, and for Canada, starting with 2015 releases.

That being said, Iger didn’t rule out a U.S. expansion at some point, telling the Times that “the technology platform that this sits on is scalable to the U.S. and is scalable to our other brands.”

In other words, even if DisneyLife itself isn’t coming to the U.S. any time soon, because Disney has a dedicated, in-house team developing the technology platform for the service, it can use its underpinnings to launch related properties on a subscription basis, like the above-mentioned Stars Wars or Marvel services.

Given the huge popularity of both those enterprises, not to mention the upcoming Star Wars movies, if Disney moves quickly it could potentially have a serious source of new revenue on its hands with subscription offerings for all three brands.

As for the DisneyLife tech platform itself and features, only a few high-level details have been provided. DisneyLife will allow family members to create user profiles based on favorite Disney characters, like Elsa, Nemo, Snow White, Woody and Mickey. Parents will also be able to set controls on children’s use, in order to limit time spent viewing on both weekends and weekdays.

Plus, content can be downloaded for offline access, and the subscription price will include the download of one Disney mobile app each month.

There was no mention of the total size of the content library at launch, or whether there could be tiered pricing in the future, like Netflix offers.

The service will initially be available via iOS and Android applications, and will support AirPlay and Chromecast. Other platforms will be added over time. Since DisneyLife is not yet live, customers instead are being invited to sign up on the DisneyLife homepage to be alerted to the launch.