Disney, what’s next?

Fox Entertainment is the latest high profile takeover from Walt Disney Studios. A useful catalogue of licenses to bolster their incoming streaming service, Disney Plus, due to launch towards the end of 2019. This might seem like a bold move from Disney, but they have consistently expanded their corporate empire over the last 15 years. Most notably with Pixar (2006), Marvel Entertainment (2009), Lucasfilm (2012). These franchises have thrived yet further following Disney´s acquisition, with releases such as Incredibles 2 (2018), Finding Dory (2016), Toy Story 3 (2010); the hugely successful and profitable Marvel Cinematic Universe, generating over $18 billion in box office sales, not including merchandising; and a new Star Wars trilogy, and despite its mixed reception, it remains in itself a major event for cinema and popular culture.

What can we expect to see from Disney in the future?

It is not unreasonable therefore to expect new releases from the much beloved franchises previously belonging to Fox Entertainment. Marvel fans for one will be excited at the possibility of a crossover with Avengers and X-Men, plenty of room for which since the original generation was neatly tied up in Logan (2017), and more scope for the most recent generation introduced in X-Men: First Class (2011), and given that the Avengers phase of the MCU is drawing to its natural close.

The Simpsons, the longest running scripted series of all time has arguably lost its early charm, but we could expect to see another feature film or spin off from Disney. James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), still the highest grossing movie of all time, is set for at least two sequels, with filming reportedly finished on Avatar 3, it could leave Disney with the potential to build on what will by then be well established characters in a familiar universe – a film which generated $2.6 billion still has plenty of untapped potential.

The Alien and Predator franchises are not so in keeping with the Disney Brand as Home Alone is, though it is unclear if Disney will push these franchises further. The same for Home Alone in fact, given the three underwhelming releases since Macaulay Culkin’s departure, perhaps it is a role too iconic and timeless to be played by anyone other than Culkin, unless in an animated version.

Major projects such as the Avengers have been adequately funded as things are, so it is unlikely revenue from Disney Plus will be needed to ensure further feature films. Instead, it is possible Disney will follow the Netflix and Prime Original model, and increase their production of television series, whether live action or animated, lower Budget and with the revenue from subscriptions. An area in which Disney have been somewhat dormant recently, relative to the huge success of the past with the likes of Hannah Montana and Suite Life of Zack and Cody.

This selection, as it is alone, will reinforce the library of Disney Plus with a substantial amount of instantly accessible quality, though considerable less quantity, in comparison to main rivals Netflix, which will be interesting to see when subscription figures are released – whether quality prevails over quantity. It will also be strictly family friendly, with the Fox films intended for mature audiences likely going to Hulu, incidentally of which Disney are the majority shareholder with 60%, having absorbed Fox´s 30%.

This is the right time for Disney

Not only are they the first high profile corporation aside from Amazon to rival Netflix, but they take advantage of the current culture of instant gratification and shorter attention span. Their streaming service will be perfect for the latest generation of parents, who have grown up both with Disney and technology, no need therefore to convert their target audience to either, as they will want to impress their own nostalgia upon their children whilst likely already owning the devices required for streaming: tablets, and Smart TVs, both of which increasingly common and competitively priced. What might seem like bold steps for the older generation will be the norm for children, who will not only adapt quicker but will expect high speed and ample selection. Not to mention tablets are becoming increasingly common in early education, schools may use Disney Plus as a means of recreation. So if there is a slow start with subscription numbers, it could be expected to rise once it spreads through word of mouth by children.

While it is adapting to a culture of instant results, by virtue Disney encourages it too. Older generations could condemn Disney for this, but streaming is far bigger than a phase or a trend, and if companies do not adapt, eventually they will get left behind. Let’s take Spotify for example. Before it, you would have to buy CDs either physically or through Apple, but Spotify offered a cheaper, far more instant alternative – streaming. And although

How will it affect the Streaming Market?

Perhaps the first issue that comes to mind when there is another streaming option is yet another monthly subscription fee. Usually more competitors are a good thing, but when they offer something as subjective as movies, people are less likely to be predictably swayed one way or the other, and instead of ending up with just one, they may be more compelled to get both if not more. Especially once more studios develop their own streaming plans it can only make sense for them to keep their original content exclusively on their own platforms… which is exactly what Disney is doing. As of April, all Disney content on Netflix will be removed so they can be exclusively on Disney Plus, twisting the arm of the consumer.

It is quickly becoming the new model, though Netflix and Prime are the original top streamers, Disney will be remembered as one of the first to expand. Considering also that there is an increasing number of those who watch on their Smartphone or laptop instead of TV, the appeal of watching whatever you want whenever you want is detrimental to current TV channels and studios, who will also feel the need to adapt, and also switch to streaming. UK sports broadcasters BT and Sky for example have agreed to show events from both channels under the same Premium banner, Amazon will also stream 20 Premier League games from the 2019/2020 season. Meaning an increase in streaming providers for all forms of entertainment, thus more options and so more fees to watch their exclusive products. It can come across as a concern to casual fans of television and cinema, especially when they may only want to watch a few specific series and not care for the entire catalogue – it seems like almost too much content that you might end up feeling you will never watch, for an additional $8 a month perhaps.

But compare this to the current cable TV packages. In the UK prices range from a rough average of GBP £40 to £120 a month. In the US a rough average of USD $30 to $100. Colombia is cheaper with roughly COP $60,000 to $115,000 per month. The lowest prices will be the bare minimum of roughly 70 channels, whilst the maximum will include all plus add ons and in some cases internet and broadband. For the same price as cable TV you could get perhaps 3 different streaming services offering a very broad range of content with the added benefit of no ad breaks and no reliance on remembering to record something or changing channel in time.

Traditional TV services do also offer their streaming apps, but in some cases there is an additional fee for this and nor is it their main focus, so they cannot compete in terms of quality of service and streamlined applications as the well established streamers such as Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu. So depending on your preferences, streaming can be better value for money.

The competition does not stop at the consumer:

Traditional TV channels are also facing competition for the creators. Black Mirror for example started on Channel 4, and despite its considerable success, Channel 4 could not provide enough of a budget for it to adequately progress. Netflix however, enabled the anthology series to expand, both on scale, but also creatively. A larger budget allowed for some of the dystopian themes to be realized more vividly, for actors like Jesse Plemons, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Cristina Milioti to play memorable characters. The extensive connections Netflix has also meant Jodie Foster directed an episode. The Netflix film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) is the first interactive film, the success, novelty, and innovation of which has encouraged other ventures into interactive viewing, notably a future Bear Grylls project launching in April. Netflix has the capacity to push ideas further.

There is far less pressure for Netflix to come up with content than there is for TV channels. TV channels need to fill time slots, and certain programmes will only be suitable for certain times, meaning there is also more pressure on the executives to choose what they think will be successful, they would be less willing than Netflix to take risks therefore, and so are more likely to hire established talent rather than giving chances to younger generations. Netflix also famously do not reveal their viewing figures for each project meaning there is less of a culture of comparison between creative projects and people will gravitate towards what interests them rather than what they feel is more popular based on statistics.

There is also less pressure on the creative process, giving it more of a chance to flourish. That is not to say that anything will pass on Netflix, they are constantly developing their algorithm to determine what the individual viewer will want to watch next based on the current catalogue and past viewings, but also what draws the broader public and specific demographics. They just keep their statistics and calculations to themselves. This is a concern for some creatives as it can be seen as a mechanical and soulless approach, it also means it is far more advanced with the appropriate technology than its television competitors in terms of selection of content, and success rate of ideas for projects. But of course with increased output, there is more probability of success, just as some will be forgotten about.

Disney is already an institution. Amazon Prime has over 100 million subscribers, and they offer services beyond movie rentals. Netflix can draw enough talent to produce Oscar winning productions such as Roma, attract directors such as Martin Scorsese, and nearly 150 million monthly subscribers brings the budget to fund them. As it stands, television has the advantage of being the norm, as well as with internet bundles, and live viewing, but even with live viewing, more streaming companies are in positions to facilitate this. So is an internet bundle enough to compete against the other aspects in the long term?

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