Disney+

Disney+ (pronounced Disney Plus) is an American subscription video on-demand streaming service owned and operated by the Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) division of The Walt Disney Company. The service primarily distributes films and television series produced by The Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Television, with the service advertising content from Disney's Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar, and Star Wars brands in particular. Original films and television series are also distributed on Disney+, with ten films and seven series having been produced for the platform as of November 2019. Serving adjacent to Disney's other streaming platforms – the general programming-oriented Hulu and the sports-oriented ESPN+ – Disney+ focuses on "family-oriented entertainment", and does not feature R-rated films or TV-MA-rated programming.

Disney+
Disney+ homepage in November 2019
Type of site
OTT video streaming platform
Area served
  • United States, Canada, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand
OwnerThe Walt Disney Company
PresidentRicky Strauss (content and marketing)
Key people
  • Joe Earley (EVP, marketing and operations)
  • Agnes Chu (SVP, content)
ParentWalt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International
Websitewww.disneyplus.com
Users24 million+ as of December 18, 2019[1]
LaunchedNovember 12, 2019 (2019-11-12)[nb 1]

Disney+ relies on technology developed by Disney Streaming Services, originally established as BAMTech in 2015, when it was spun off from MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM). Disney increased its ownership share of BAMTech to a controlling stake in 2017, and subsequently transferred ownership to DTCI as part of a corporate restructure in anticipation of Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox. With BAMTech helping to launch ESPN+ in early 2018, and Disney's streaming distribution deal with Netflix ending in 2019, Disney took the opportunity to use technologies being developed for ESPN+ to establish a Disney-branded streaming service that would feature its content. Production of films and television shows to feature exclusively on the platform began in late 2017; Marvel's original series for Netflix were cancelled in favor of Marvel Cinematic Universe series for Disney+.

Disney+ debuted on November 12, 2019 in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. The service was expanded to Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico a week later, and will be expanded to select European countries in March 2020. Further expansions are planned for Europe and Latin America in late 2020 through 2021, as Disney's international streaming distribution deals with competing services expire. Upon launch, the service was met with positive reception to its content library, though was criticized for technical problems. Alterations made to movies and TV shows also attracted media attention. Within its first day of operation, Disney+ earned 10 million subscribers. At the end of November, the service has reached to over 24 million subscribers.

History

In August 2016, Disney acquired a minority stake in BAMTech (a spin-out of MLB Advanced Media's streaming technology business) for $1 billion, with an option to acquire a majority stake in the future. Following the purchase, ESPN announced plans for an "exploratory [over-the-top] project" based on its technology (ESPN+) to supplant its existing linear television services.[2][3] On August 8, 2017, Disney invoked its option to acquire a controlling stake in BAMTech for $1.58 billion, increasing its stake to 75%. Alongside the acquisition, the company also announced plans for a second, Disney-branded direct-to-consumer service drawing from its entertainment content, which would launch after the company ends its existing distribution agreement with Netflix in 2019.[4][5] Soon there after, Agnes Chu, story and franchise development executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, was the first appointed executive, senior vice president of content, for the unit.[6]

In December 2017, Disney announced its intent to acquire key entertainment assets from 21st Century Fox. Intended to bolster Disney's content portfolio for its streaming products,[7][8] the acquisition completed on March 20, 2019.[9]

In January 2018, it was reported that former Apple and Samsung executive Kevin Swint had been appointed as the senior vice president and general manager reporting to BAMTech CEO Michael Paull, who leads development.[10][11] In March 2018, Disney's top level segment division was reorganized with the formation of Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, which then included BAMTech, which contains "all consumer-facing tech and products".[12] In June 2018, longtime Disney studio marketing chief, Ricky Strauss, was named president of content and marketing, however reporting to chairman of Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International Kevin Mayer.[13][14] In January 2019, Fox Television Group COO Joe Earley was named executive vice president of marketing and operations.[15] In June 2019, Matt Brodlie was named as senior vice president of international content development.[16] In August 2019, Luke Bradley-Jones was hired as senior vice president of direct to consumer and general manager of Disney+ for Europe and Africa.[17]

On November 8, 2018, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that the service would be named Disney+ and that the company was targeting a launch in late 2019.[18] A September launch was reportedly planned,[19] but on April 11, 2019, Disney announced that Disney+ would launch on November 12, 2019, in the US. Disney stated that it planned to roll the service out worldwide over the next two years, targeting Western Europe and Asia-Pacific countries by late 2019 and early 2020, and Eastern Europe and Latin America during 2020. The timing of international launches is subject to the acquisition or expiration of existing streaming rights deals for Disney content.[20] On August 6, 2019, Iger announced that it will offer a streaming bundle of Disney+, ESPN+, and the ad-supported version of Hulu for $12.99 per month available at launch.[21] At the D23 Expo in August 2019, Disney opened subscriptions to Disney+ at a discounted rate for three years.[22]

On September 12, 2019, a trial version of Disney+ became available in the Netherlands with limited content available. This testing phase lasted until the official launch on November 12, when trial users were switched to a paid plan.[23][24] Disney+ became available for pre-order in September in the United States with a 7-day free trial upon launch.[25]

In October 2019, Disney released a three-and-a-half-hour trailer on YouTube to showcase their launch lineup.[26] It was also reported that Disney would ban advertisements for competitor Netflix from most of its TV platforms, except ESPN.[27][28]

Disney+ launched on November 12, 2019 Midnight Pacific Time in the announced initial three launch countries.[29] The services had some issues the first day from logging in (about 33% of the problems), accessing specific content (about 66%), setting up profiles and watch lists. Some of the issues were due to third party devices.[30]

On November 18, 2019, an investigation by ZDNet discovered that thousands of users' accounts were hacked using keystroke logging or info-stealing malware. Their email addresses and passwords were changed, "effectively taking over the account and locking the previous owner out", and their login information was put up for sale on the dark web.[31]

Content

The service is built around content from Disney's main entertainment studios, including Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, National Geographic, and select films from 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and Touchstone Pictures.[32] The service will operate alongside Hulu, which Disney gained a controlling stake in following the 21st Century Fox purchase.[33] Bob Iger stated that Disney+ would be focused specifically on family-oriented entertainment (and not carry any R or TV-MA-rated content), and that Hulu would remain oriented towards general entertainment.[18][34][35] Hulu will also host Disney+ as an add-on service.[36]

Content library

It is expected that Disney+ will have approximately 7,000 television episodes and 500 films,[37] including content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, and National Geographic, as well as original television series and films from Disney Channel and Freeform, and select titles from 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios.[32][38][39][40][41][42] However, the service will also include select acquired programming from outside production companies that are not directly made by Disney or any of its subsidiaries (such as eOne's PJ Masks, though it does air on Disney Junior, with seasons 1 and 2 being available at launch, and seasons 3 and 4 being available after all episodes of said seasons have aired). New releases from 20th Century Fox (including Blue Sky's upcoming film Spies in Disguise) will not immediately be available on either Disney+ or Hulu, as Fox has an output deal with HBO until 2022.[43] Captain Marvel, Dumbo (2019), and Avengers: Endgame became the first theatrically-released Disney films to stream exclusively on Disney+.[14] Iger said that Disney+ will eventually host the entire Disney film library, including films currently in the "Disney Vault". However, on November 7, 2019, The Hollywood Reporter stated that potentially controversial content such as Song of the South and certain scenes from Dumbo (1941) and Toy Story 2 would be excluded; the former generally has never been released on home video in the U.S., but the latter two have been available unedited on home video for years.[44][45] Dumbo and other early Disney films eventually debuted on Disney+ unedited, but carrying a disclaimer on its "Details" page within the service.[46] The service also holds exclusive streaming rights to The Simpsons, with seasons 1–30 becoming available on launch.[47][lower-alpha 1]

It was initially unclear whether the first six films of the Star Wars franchise would be available in the United States at the service's launch, as TBS held streaming rights through 2024 as part of its cable rights to the franchise,[49] but on April 11, 2019, it was announced that the films would be available at launch along with The Force Awakens and Rogue One,[50][51] with The Last Jedi to be added on December 25, 2019, and Solo and The Rise of Skywalker will be available within its first year of operation. The rights to The Force Awakens (among various other Disney films) are owned by the premium television network Starz (as they have previously been the first-run pay-TV provider for Walt Disney Studios' releases between 1994 and 2015). In order to sub-license the streaming rights, it was reported that Disney had agreed to provide an advertising placement for Starz at the conclusion of the registration process for Disney+ and ESPN+ on PC and Android platforms. No promotions for Starz (or ads of any other kind) will be contained within the service proper.[52][53]

In the United States, most of the films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe were available at launch, with the exception of four films, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther (scheduled to be available March 4, 2020), Avengers: Infinity War (scheduled to be available June 25, 2020), and Ant-Man and the Wasp (scheduled to be available July 29, 2020), due to existing licensing deals with Netflix; and three other films, The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home, are unavailable because their distribution rights are owned by Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures respectively.[54][55]

Original scripted content

Original series based on Marvel properties and Star Wars are being produced, with the former including eight new Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki, an animated What If series, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk.[56][57] The latter includes The Mandalorian, a television series that is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, a currently untitled spin-off series focused on Cassian Andor from Rogue One, a seventh season of the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and a yet-untitled series starring Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, reprising his role from the prequel trilogy.[18][58] The service's initial original content goal was planned to include four to five original films and five television shows with budgets from $25–100 million.[35] In January 2019, it was reported that Disney will spend up to $500 million in original content for the service.[59] The Mandalorian alone is expected to cost $100 million.[60]

In January 2019, Disney+ ordered Diary of a Female President from CBS Television Studios, its first series from an outside production company.[61] A television series remake of the film High Fidelity was initially announced for Disney+, but in April 2019, it was revealed that the project had been shifted to Hulu.[62]

In August 2019, Iger announced that 20th Century Fox films such as Home Alone, Night at the Museum, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Cheaper by the Dozen will be "'reimagined' for 'a new generation'" exclusively for Disney+[63] by Fox Family.[64] Original episodic content will be released weekly, opposed to all at once[65] with the release time to be 12:01 a.m. PT on Fridays, starting November 15, 2019.[66]

Original unscripted content

Disney also plans original factual television content for the service, aiming to "find the ethos of Disney in everyday stories, inspiring hope and sparking the curiosity of audiences of all ages." Some of these series will have ties to Disney properties, including behind-the-scenes documentary miniseries focusing on Disney studios (such as one following the production of Frozen II),[56] the Disney-themed competition cooking competition Be Our Chef, Cinema Relics (a documentary series showcasing iconic costume and props from Disney films), Marvel's Hero Project (a series that will showcase "inspiring kids [that] have dedicated their lives to selfless acts of bravery and kindness"), and The Imagineering Story (a Leslie Iwerks-directed documentary series chronicling the history and work of Walt Disney Imagineering).[67][68] National Geographic is also producing Magic of the Animal Kingdom (a docuseries following the animal caretakers of Disney's Animal Kingdom and Epcot's aquarium) and The World According to Jeff Goldblum.[69]

Disney reached a two-year pact with the documentary studio Supper Club (Brian McGinn, David Gelb and Jason Sterman, producers of Netflix's Chef's Table) to produce content for the service, including the conservation-themed nature documentary series Earthkeepers, and a documentary series chronicling the cultural and societal impact of Marvel's characters. Other factual series include Encore! (a Kristen Bell-produced series that reunites casts from high school musical productions to reprise their roles), (Re)Connect (a reality series produced by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos' Milojo Productions), Rogue Trip (a travel series featuring Bob Woodruff and his son Mack), and the reality competition Shop Class.[67][68] On December 3, 2019, Disney+ announced the new Star Wars-based children's game show Jedi Temple Challenge to be hosted by Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy.[70]

Device support and service features

Disney+ is available for streaming via web browsers on PCs, as well as apps on Apple iOS devices and Apple TV, Android mobile devices and Android TV, Amazon devices such as Fire TV and Fire HD, Chromecast, Chromebook, Samsung smart TVs, LG smart TVs, Roku devices, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows 10.[71][72] Content available on Disney+ is also listed in the Apple TV app.[73]

Accessibility features include closed captioning, Descriptive Video Service, audio description, and audio navigation assistance.[74]

Disney+ allows seven user profiles per account, with the ability to stream on four devices concurrently and unlimited downloads for offline viewing. Content is able to be streamed in resolutions up to 4K Ultra HD in Dolby Vision and HDR10, with Dolby Atmos sound on supported devices. Legacy content is available in English, Spanish, French, and Dutch, while Disney+ originals features additional language options.[75]

Launch

Disney+ is rolling out worldwide via a staggered rollout plan. It launched first in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands on November 12, 2019 just before 3:00 a.m. EST (UTC–5). Disney+ launched in Australia, New Zealand and Puerto Rico on November 19, 2019, and is set to launch in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Ireland and "a number of other countries in Western Europe" on March 31, 2020.[20][76] Disney+ is expected to launch in Eastern Europe, over the course of a year, and Latin America, over the course of three months, both starting in October 2020.[76] Canal Plus Group has signed in December 2019 an agreement to add Disney+ at launch to the range of Disney channels already the only French distributor along with other Disney content deals.[77]

Launch rollout
Release date Country
November 12, 2019[nb 1]  Canada
 Netherlands
 United States
November 19, 2019[29]  Australia
 New Zealand
 Puerto Rico
March 31, 2020[78]  France
 Germany
 Ireland[79]
 Italy
 Spain
 United Kingdom

Reception

On the first day of launch, Disney stated that the streaming service has signed up more than 10 million subscribers.[80] Disney+ has been well-received, thanks to its affordable price and for its large content throughout the Disney library. Frank Pallotta of CNN stated that "the company [Disney] has repackaged its trove of beloved content for the service makes it a worthy companion to the other services in the marketplace.[81] Nick Pino of TechRadar stated that "if Disney keeps it updated with new content, Disney+ could rival Netflix sooner rather than later".[82]

Upon launch, Disney+ received technical difficulties. Users complained getting error messages of the service being down and "unable to connect", especially since many of them paid for the service months in advance.[83] In some instances, passwords needed to be reset to allow access.

One other negative aspect with the launch of the service was the presentation of the non-HD episodes of The Simpsons. Namely, that instead of presenting them in their original aspect ratio, they were either cropped to fit 16:9 widescreen TVs or stretched out in the same manner.[84] FXX's now-defunct "Simpsons World" streaming service was similarly criticized when it launched.[85] In response, Disney stated "...in early 2020, Disney+ will make the first 19 seasons (and some episodes from Season 20) of 'The Simpsons' available in their original 4:3 aspect ratio, giving subscribers a choice of how they prefer to view the popular series."[86]

Some have noted that episodes for X-Men, DuckTales, The Simpsons, Kim Possible, and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes are presented almost entirely out of order while The Simpsons, Darkwing Duck, The Little Mermaid and Tron: Uprising are missing whole episodes.[87][88] In addition, the first few episodes of Gravity Falls have had the symbol on Grunkle Stan's fez removed. This was due to the fact that the episodes uploaded were from foreign edits of the show that deemed the symbol offensive to the Islamic flag.[89]

Disney+ was the top trending Google search in 2019.[90]

Content warnings

Like Warner Bros. has done with some content from its own studio and the pre-1986 MGM library in several home media venues, Disney has added disclaimers to older works such as Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, and Peter Pan, regarding some scenes containing cultural stereotypes which some viewers may find offensive or insensitive.[91][92] An additional notice is displayed for titles containing depictions of tobacco.[92]

Notes

  1. The service received a soft launch on September 12, 2019 in the Netherlands.
  1. "Stark Raving Dad" (1991) is the only Simpsons episode unavailable on Disney+; the episode was pulled from circulation in early 2019 following renewed sexual abuse allegations against guest star Michael Jackson.[48]

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