Disney raised the curtain on a hotly anticipated video streaming service that’s aiming to topple industry pioneer Netflix, once a valuable ally of the Magic Kingdom.
The service, called Disney Plus, has been in the works for more than a year, but Thursday marked the first time that the longtime entertainment powerhouse has laid out plans for its attack on Netflix and a formidable cast of competitors, including Amazon, HBO Go and Showtime Anytime.
Disney Plus will roll out in the U.S. on November 12 at a price of $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year. That’s well below the $13 monthly fee Netflix charges for its most popular streaming plan, signaling Disney’s determination to woo subscribers as it vies to become a major player in a field that has turned “binge watching” into a common ritual.
Like Netflix, Disney Plus will be free of ads. Subscribers will be able to download all of the shows and movies on Disney’s service to watch offline.
Netflix will still have a far deeper video programming lineup after spending tens of billions of dollars during the past six years on original shows such as “House of Cards,” ”Stranger Things” and “The Crown.”
But Disney Plus will be able to draw upon a library of revered films dating back several decades while it also forges into original programming. Its animated classics, including “Aladdin” and “The Jungle Book” will be available on the service when it launches.
New shows already on tap include “The Mandalorian,” the first live action “Star Wars” series, created by Jon Favreau; a prequel to the “Star Wars” film “Rogue One,” starring Diego Luna; a series about the Marvel character Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston; a rebooted “High School Musical” series; and a new documentary series focused on Disney.
Disney is approaching the streaming industry from a “position of strength, confidence and unbridled optimism,” CEO Bob Iger said Thursday. Iger has led the company since 2005 and expects to step down when his contract ends in 2021.
The service’s entire lineup will cover five categories: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
Although Disney has an enviable track record of producing shows and films that attract huge audiences, its attempt to build its own Netflix is risky. To make the leap, Disney ended a lucrative licensing relationship with Netflix, which had become the video streaming home for its latest films after their theatrical release, as well as many of its TV series and classic movies.
But now movies that came out in 2019, and going forward, will be streamed only on Disney Plus. That includes “Captain Marvel,” which came out earlier this year; “Avengers: Endgame,” which debuts in late April; and the upcoming “Toy Story 4,” live-action movies “The Lion King” and “Aladdin;” and “Star Wars Episode IX.”
In many ways, it’s hard to compare Netflix with Disney because of the widely different types of shows each offers, said eMarketer analyst Paul Verna.
“The interesting thing is both companies have ended up in the same place, but they’ve come to it from vastly different backgrounds,” he said.
Disney will also contend with a new streaming service from Apple, which is expected to be released in the fall. Apple has not yet said how much its service will cost or when exactly it will launch.
Last month, Disney completed its biggest deal yet with its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s entertainment business. The first 30 seasons of “The Simpsons” will now stream exclusively on Disney Plus.
The Fox takeover helps Disney tighten its control over TV shows and movies from start to finish — from creating the programs to distributing them through television channels, movie theaters, streaming services and other avenues. Disney will also get valuable data on customers and their entertainment-viewing habits, which it can then use to sell advertising.