Among the projects in the works for the November launch of Disney+ are a show called The Mandalorian, a sci-fi Western of sorts set in the Star Wars universe; a laboriously titled mockumentary series called High School Musical: The Musical: The Series; and a docuseries hosted by Jeff Goldblum. Original movies will include a live-action, CGI-heavy remake of Lady and the Tramp and a Christmas-themed comedy starring Anna Kendrick called Noelle. But there’s far more to Disney’s plans for its big media properties. More Star Wars shows are in the pipeline (including one centered on Diego Luna’s character, Cassian Andor, from Rogue One), while Marvel heroes including Loki, Scarlet Witch, Vision, the Falcon, and the Winter Soldier will get various spin-off programs.
For superfans of those titles, the prospect of dedicated shows will probably be enough to justify a $7 monthly charge. Another fledgling streaming service, CBS All Access, has attracted subscribers by focusing on being the exclusive purveyor of new Star Trek shows. The success of the company’s launch program, Star Trek: Discovery, helped CBS reach its goal of 8 million users two years early (and now more Star Trek shows are on the way). Fortunately for Disney, Marvel and Star Wars have similarly devoted fan bases. It also appears that Disney+ will be a home for films that, in years past, would’ve been solid, mid-budget family offerings at the cinema, including Julia Hart’s adaptation of the novel Stargirl, a family comedy called Magic Camp, and planned remakes of Peter Pan and The Sword in the Stone. Now that Disney’s theatrical strategy is focused entirely on giant blockbusters, Disney+ will exist for projects less guaranteed to post an impressive opening weekend.
The biggest advantage Disney+ has over its emerging rivals, however, is the archives. The company will be ending its fabled “Disney vault” approach to its animated library—a strategy by which the studio allowed only a rotating group of titles to be available for purchase at any one time. Disney+ will now serve as the home for all the studio’s films (about 500 titles), and its catalog will only grow as individual deals with streaming companies such as Netflix expire. For families with younger children, that trove of animated entertainment (combined with about 7,500 episodes of Disney TV shows) could easily be worth the monthly cost. That’s all before you even consider Disney’s newest acquisition, 20th Century Fox, which has its own vast cinematic library and major properties such as Avatar and The Simpsons (the latter’s entire episode archive will be available on Disney+).
For Disney, the appeal of this new venture is twofold. A streaming service has come to be an essential part of any big media company’s offerings (WarnerMedia is working on a similar bundled product of its own). But companies such as Netflix have also benefited from licensing Disney titles for their own streaming libraries; as those rights lapse, those movies will vanish, and Netflix will be forced to rely more heavily on its own original content. It’s exactly why every major tech company has been pouring money into original television and film: to prepare for the approaching landscape of à la carte online viewing. Consumers will have to pick which services seem most worth the monthly price to them, and the better the archive, the more valuable the commitment.