Disney just wrapped up the first segment of an investor day in which it laid out its plans for its direct-to-consumer streaming business, including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and Hotstar/Star.
The company kicked off the presentation with some new subscriber numbers — 86.8 million for Disney+ (roughly 30% of those are subscribers to Disney+ Hotstar, which leveraged an existing streaming service in India), 38.8 million for Hulu and 11.5 million for ESPN+, adding up to more than 137 million subscribers across the company’s streaming business.
The rest of the event is expected to focus on content announcements and previews, but Chairman of Media and Entertainment Distribution Kareem Daniel has already hinted at big plans for the next “few years.”
While high-profile Disney+ originals have largely been limited to “The Mandalorian” and “Hamilton” in year one, Daniels said the company has plans to launch 10 Marvel series, 10 Star Wars series, 15 Disney Animation/Disney live action/Pixar series and 15 Disney Animation/Disney live action/Pixar feature films exclusively on Disney+.
At the same time, Daniel said that Disney remains committed to a variety of distribution strategies, particularly “theatrical exhibition’s ability to establish major franchises.”
He also announced that the Disney Animation film “Raya and the Dragon” will follow the same distribution strategy as “Mulan” this fall, with the film launching simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ as a Premier Access release that subscribers will need to pay extra to see.
The presentation also made it clear that the Hotstar/Star brand will be key to Disney’s international growth plans. In Latin America, the company plans to launch a standalone Star+ service, while a new Star section in the Disney+ app will become the home for “general entertainment” content (basically, the kinds of content that U.S. viewers will find on Hulu) in other markets like Europe.
Adding a Star section will mean introducing mature content to Disney+, which was previously limited to family-friendly movies and shows. So Disney also offered a quick demonstration of new parental controls that will allow subscribers to turn access to more mature content on and off — this will also allow the company to introduce new content to other parts of Disney+, for example bringing the R-rated film “Logan” to the Marvel section.
You can also expect to see more integrations between different Disney streaming services. For example, Star+ will include content from ESPN, while Hulu will introduce the ability to subscribe and watch ESPN+ content directly in the app.
And if you’re a subscriber to the Disney bundle, which combines Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month, the company plans to add a new tier in January that offers ad-free Hulu for an extra $6 per month.
Update: And now we have some details on those shows. On the Star Wars side, they include two series developed by “Mandalorian” executive producers Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni — “Rangers of the New Republic” and a spinoff focused on Ahsoka Tano, the beloved “Clone Wars” character who recently made the jump to live action on “The Mandalorian.” Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy said the three shows will come together in a “climactic storytelling event.”
There will also be previously announced shows focused on “Rogue One” character Cassian Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi — the latter will see the return not just of Ewan McGregor, but also Hayden Christiansen, who played Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy. Plus, a Lando Calrissian series is in the works, as well as “The Acolyte,” a series from “Russian Doll” writer Leslye Headland.
Kennedy also announced that the next theatrically released Star Wars film will be a Rogue Squadron movie directed by “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, due for release on Christmas 2023.
Beyond Star Wars, Lucasfilm is also developing a “Willow” series with Jon M. Chu, plus an adaptation of Tomi Adeyemi’s “Childen of Blood and Bone.” And it plans to start production on the much-delayed fifth Indiana Jones film next spring, with James Mangold directing and Harrison Ford returning, due for release in July 2022.
Non-Marvel, non-Star Wars Disney+ live action shows in development include a “Mighty Ducks” sequel with Emilio Estevez and Lauren Graham, a “Turner and Hooch” reboot and a “Swiss Family Robinson” reboot from Chu and acclaimed “Battlestar Galactica” rebooter Ron Moore. And on the movie side, the studio is developing “Sister Act 3” with Whoopi Goldberg.
Hulu and FX had a few announcements of their own, including a fifth season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and an “Alien” series from Noah Hawley.
Disney will also continue reviving its classic titles, with Disney+ Originals including a new version of “Pinocchio” directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, a new version of “Peter Pan and Wendy.”
And Pixar has three series coming to Disney+, starting with the “Up” spinoff “Dug Days” next fall, followed by a “Cars” series and an original show called “Win or Lose.”
Lastly, on the Marvel side, “WandaVision” launches on January 15, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (which Marvel’s Kevin Feige described as “a Marvel Studios movie played out over six episodes”) is coming in March, “Loki” in May, “Ms. Marvel” sometime next year (and the character will also appear in “Captain Marvel 2,” illustrating what Feige called the “interconnectedness” of the TV shows and films) and “Hawkeye” late next year. Also on the horizon are “She-Hulk” with Tatiana Maslany (and Mark Ruffalo returning as the Hulk) and “Moon Knight.”
Feige also announced the Disney+ series “Secret Invasion” (based on the popular crossover, with Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury), “Ironheart” and an “Iron Man” tie-in “Armor Wars” with Don Cheadle. And there’s a “Guardians of the Galaxy” holiday special written and directed by James Gunn due out in Christmas 2022.