Disney’s Future Plans – Everything You Need to Know
The other day, The Walt Disney Company held an earnings call about their fiscal 2018 results. You can read a transcript of it here, but it is 12 pages long. You’re a busy person and don’t need the aggravation. How about I give you all the important details? Here’s everything we just learned about Disney’s future plans.
A few months ago, MickeyBlog wondered aloud if CEO Robert Iger had accidentally leaked the name of the upcoming streaming service. Sure enough, he did! The name of Disney’s upcoming over-the-top (OTT) streaming service is Disney+. You’ll notice that it aligns nicely with their current OTT offering, ESPN+. Both products pronounce the word, so you’ll hear them described as ESPN Plus and Disney Plus.
While revealing the service’s name, Disney officials announced several more aspects of Disney+. Perhaps the most interesting is how the interface will work. Iger indicated that the product will have an interface that emphasizes the company’s core brands. He suggested that those video groupings are Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars plus the upcoming National Geographic, a Fox acquisition.
From a user perspective, what this means when you pull up the app is that you’ll see section headers for products like Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars. You won’t have to do any searching to find your favorite films in each category. Instead, you may click the brand and the interface will display the films and television products available on Disney+. All of your favorite Disney content is easily accessible with only a couple of finger taps on a phone.
Iger expressed confidence that Disney+ will be a “compelling consumer proposition.” He went on to reveal that Disney will hold an investor conference in April. During this event, the company will go into great detail about their entire digital streaming strategy. We should learn a great deal more about the Disney streaming service in roughly six months. Think of the upcoming conference as Disney’s first major sales pitch for Disney+.
A Couple of Disney+ Reveals
While discussing Disney+, executives unveiled a couple of new tidbits about launch titles for the service. One of them is the rumored Loki story. Tom Hiddleston will return to play the title role in this live action Marvel series.
Disney had previously suggested this possibility, but it seemed a bit up in the air due to *ahem* events from Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos wasn’t especially kind to Loki in that film. It remains to be seen whether the story is a prequel or Loki somehow triumphantly returns from (the brink of?) death in the television series.
The real surprise is the announcement of a second Star Wars television series. This particular program is especially interesting due to the subject matter. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story earned more than one billion in global box office, giving Disney plenty of reason to want a sequel. The problem, as you know, is that Rogue One is a tragic but heroic tale about how a lot of good people sacrificed themselves to give the Rebellion a chance against the Empire.
Diego Luna co-stars in the movie as Cassian Andor, a captain in the Rebel Alliance. Like Jyn Erso, the female protagonist, Cassian dies on Scarif in the film. The entire story is something that’s been firmly entrenched in Star Wars canon since Return of the Jedi.
Despite his noble death, Disney found a new story to tell about Cassian Andor. Luna will return in a live action television series. It will work as a prequel to Rogue One. In combination with the Jon Favreau-produced Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, Disney will have the first two Star Wars television programs ever as anchors of Disney+.
Iger specifically mentions that The Mandalorian will be the first product. For this reason, you should expect them to stagger the release of the Cassian Andor/Rogue One prequel to a later date, one after the launch of Disney+. It’s the same strategy Disney is employing at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by adding Star Wars Land 18-24 months before the opening of Star Wars Hotel. They can create a new wave of demand for Disney+ with a second, later product.
A Quick Fox Update
In recent months, I’ve suggested on MickeyBlog News that Disney’s Fox acquisition could come much sooner than expected. Disney announced the deal almost exactly 11 months ago, but other bidders for this content delayed the process.
A few weeks ago, Disney received governmental approval for the deal in the United States. This situation moved up the timeline a great deal. A couple of Fox executives had indicated that the transaction could complete as soon as January 1st. That’s legitimately half a year sooner than most analysts had expected.
During the earnings call, Iger didn’t give a firm timeline for the Fox purchase. He did, however, state that the transaction’s completion will be “meaningfully earlier than (June 1st).” Iger pointed out that Disney has received approval from the two governments most likely to slow down the process. Disney officials believe that they’re only a couple of cleared hurdles away from finalizing the transaction.
Yes, that January 1, 2019 timeline is feasible. Disney might miss by a few weeks, of course, as major conglomerates require a large amount of bureaucracy for such acquisitions. At this point, I do feel comfortable in saying that Disney should own most of Fox’s assets during the first quarter of 2019.
The quick facilitation of the purchase will help Disney in another way. They’ll have more time to integrate popular Fox titles into ESPN+ if so inclined. At a minimum, they can add these products to Hulu. Speaking of which…
Disney’s Plans for Hulu
Once the Fox transaction is completed, Disney will own a controlling interest of 60 percent of Hulu. Analysts on the earnings call were understandably curious about Disney’s plans for the service.
Iger and his team addressed these questions while providing a couple of interesting updates. He noted that without full ownership of Hulu, Disney must be respectful of the other two entities involved, AT&T Time Warner and Comcast. Still, controlling interest means that Disney has final say on all decisions.
With Fox’s movies and television series about to switch over to Disney, Hulu becomes a natural landing spot for R-rated films, as they apparently won’t be a part of Disney+. Iger commented that Hulu will gain a lot more original content in coming years. Disney feels that it’s a core part of an OTT service.
A couple of the comments were also a bit concerning. Iger suggested that Hulu could do a much better job with its advertising, suggesting that a higher level of ad distribution is in the offing. He then added that he feels Hulu could/should increase its pricing. Hey, Disney has to pay for that $71 billion Fox check somehow, right?
If you’re a Disney fanatic like me and want to be totally informed, you can read the full earnings call transcript here.
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