Disney+ streaming service will feature non-Disney content at launch

Disney’s soon-to-launch streaming service and Netflix competitor, known as Disney+, will include non-Disney programming at launch, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed in a call with investors following Disney’s earnings on Tuesday. The company had already licensed a CBS show for its service, which led to questions about Disney’s content strategy for the new service. Iger said that while Disney’s long-term strategy will focus on the company’s own internally-sourced programming, it plans to launch this year with shows licensed from outside of Disney.

Last month, Disney had ordered the 10-episode series, “Diary of a Female President” from “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer Ilana Peña, Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), and CBS TV Studios.

But it was unclear if a buy like this was something of a one-off for Disney, or if the company planned to strategically shop for more programming from outside of its walls to fill out Disney+.

The service, we already knew, will feature content from all of Disney’s big-name brands, including Marvel, LucasFilm/Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic (post-Fox), and Disney Studios itself. And we knew, too, the service will focus on family-friendly fare, while snaring the exclusive streaming rights to things like the Star Wars and Marvel movies.

On Tuesday, Disney announced that “Captain Marvel” would be the first of its movies to stream exclusively on Disney+.

Disney will also produce original shows and movies for the service, including a “High School Musical” show, an animated “Monsters Inc.” series, a Marvel live-action title, and a “Star Wars” title, “The Mandalorian,” among other things.

What was less clear was whether Disney-owned content would be all there is to watch on Disney+ – at least until Disney’s Fox deal goes through, that is. The company said it plans to leverage some of its new Fox assets and output further down the road to round out Disney+’s offerings.

In the foreseeable future, however, Disney confirmed will strategically buy shows from other studios, and will continue to do so in the future

According to Iger, the long-term strategy is “pretty heavily weighted to internally sourced versus externally sourced.” But he added that there would be times when Disney would be “glad to license from third parties.”

One of those times, apparently, is launch.

“Because we need to launch the service with some volume – and it takes time to ramp up – we’re buying certain products from the outside opportunistically, and we’ll continue to do that,” said Iger. He added that this is something Disney has done for some time, in other areas of its business. For example, its theme parks licensed IP from George Lucas, as well as the Indiana Jones IP, and the Avatar IP.

“We’ll continue to look at opportunities that we think we can leverage because there is a potential consumer demand for it,” Iger said.

Streaming was a big part of Disney’s conversation with investors on Tuesday, as the public debut of Disney+ nears. Investors will get a first look at the new service on April 11, but the pricing and an exact release date aren’t yet known.

Disney also updated investors on its other streaming efforts, including ESPN+ milestone of 2+ million subscribers, and the company’s plans to use the same underlying technology platform, BAMTech, to power Disney+. The company touched on its plans for Hulu, too, again reiterating its desire to take the service international and to offer bundles that combined Hulu and ESPN+ or Disney+ in one package deal.

Iger spoke also of FX’s plans to output content to Hulu instead of Disney+, as FX doesn’t fit the latter’s family-friendly nature.

The shift to streaming is not coming without an initial hit to Disney’s business, though. The company noted it expected to lose $150 million from stopping its licensing deals with Netflix this year, as it expected. Disney believes that it will eventually make up for the loss as consumers sign up for Disney+.

Disney reported flat growth of $15.3 billion in revenue in its fiscal Q1 2019 and adjusted earnings per share of $1.84, topping analyst estimates. It warned that its investments in streaming, including both ESPN+ and Disney+, would negatively impact the segment’s year-over-year operating income by $200 million in Q2.


Image credits: Disney