Disney+ (pronounced Disney Plus) is a subscription video on-demand streaming service owned and operated by the Direct-to-Consumer & International (DTCI) subsidiary 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 also advertising content from the company's Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic 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 entertainment based around Disney brands.

Disney+ relies on technology developed by Disney Streaming Services, which was 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 restructuring 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 for exclusive release on the platform began in late 2017.

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 expanded to select European countries on March 24, 2020. It became available in India in April through Disney's Hotstar streaming service which was rebranded as Disney+ Hotstar. Further expansions are planned for Europe and Latin America in mid 2020, as Disney's existing international streaming distribution deals with competing services expire. Upon launch, the service was met with positive reception of its content library, but was criticized for technical problems. Alterations made to films and television shows also attracted media attention. Ten million users subscribed to Disney+ within its first day of operation. The service had 54.5 million subscribers as of May 4, 2020.

History

In late 2015, Disney launched a streaming service in the United Kingdom called DisneyLife to test the streaming market.[1][2]

In August 2016, Disney acquired a minority stake in BAMTech (a spin-off 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.[3][4] 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.[5][6] Not long after, Agnes Chu, story and franchise development executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, was the first executive appointed for the unit, as senior vice president of content.[7] Chu led two projects to launch the new unit. First, Disney needed to verify exactly what content could be physically and legally made available through a streaming service right away, which meant physically reviewing all content in Disney's vaults that had not recently undergone restoration, and reviewing "binders of pieces of paper with legal deals" to identify potential obstacles.[8] Second, Chu met with leaders of Disney's various content-producing divisions to start brainstorming which projects would be appropriate for release on a streaming service rather than in movie theaters.[8] Chu later left in August 2020.[9]

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,[10][11] the acquisition was completed on March 20, 2019.[12]

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.[13][14] 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".[15] In June of the same year, 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.[16][17] In January 2019, Fox Television Group COO Joe Earley was named executive vice president of marketing and operations.[18] In June 2019, Matt Brodlie was named as senior vice president of international content development.[19] 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.[20]

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.[21] A September launch was reportedly planned,[22] but on April 11, 2019, Disney announced that Disney+ would launch on November 12, 2019 in the United States. 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.[23] 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.[24] At the D23 Expo in August 2019, Disney opened subscriptions to Disney+ at a discounted rate for three years.[25]

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.[26][27] Disney+ became available for pre-order in September in the United States with a 7-day free trial upon launch.[28]

In October 2019, Disney released a three-and-a-half-hour trailer on YouTube to showcase their launch lineup.[29] It was also reported that Disney would ban advertisements for competitor Netflix from most of its TV platforms, except ESPN.[30][31]

Disney+ launched on November 12, 2019 Midnight Pacific Time in the announced initial three launch countries.[32] 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.[33]

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.[34]

On March 12, 2020, Vanessa Morrison, who previously served as President of Fox Family and Fox Animation, was appointed President of Streaming for Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production and will oversee development and production of Disney+ film content from The Walt Disney Studios for both Disney Live Action and 20th Century Studios.[35] Morrison reports directly to President of Walt Disney Pictures Sean Bailey.[35]

Content

The service is built around content from Disney's main entertainment studios and film and television library, including Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Disneynature, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, National Geographic, and select films from 20th Century Studios, Hollywood Pictures, Searchlight Pictures, and Touchstone Pictures.[36] The service will operate alongside Hulu, which Disney gained a controlling stake in following the 21st Century Fox purchase.[37] Bob Iger stated that Disney+ would be focused specifically on family-oriented entertainment (and not carry any R and NC-17 or TV-MA-rated content), and that Hulu would remain oriented towards general entertainment.[21][38][39] Hulu will also host Disney+ as an add-on service.[40]

Content library

It is suggested that Disney+ has approximately 7,000 television episodes and 500 films,[41] including original television series and films from Disney Channel and Freeform, and select titles from 20th Century Fox Television and ABC Studios.[36][42] The service also includes 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 and BBC Studios' Bluey, though they both air on Disney Junior). New releases from 20th Century Studios (including Blue Sky's Spies in Disguise) will not immediately be available on either Disney+ or Hulu, as the studio has pre-existing output deals with other premium TV/streaming providers (including HBO in the U.S. until 2022,[43] Crave in Canada[44] and Sky in the UK, Ireland, Italy and Germany). Captain Marvel, Dumbo (2019), and Avengers: Endgame became the first theatrically released Disney films to stream exclusively on Disney+ within the pay-cable window.[17]

Iger said that Disney+ will eventually host the entire Disney film library, including films currently in the "Disney Vault". However, he stated that the controversial Song of the South (1946), which has never been released on home video in its entirety in the U.S., will not be released on the service.[45] For unknown reasons, Make Mine Music is not available on the service, making it the only film in the Disney animated canon not to be included.[46] Despite being available at launch, at least four films – Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties – have been removed from the service in the U.S.[47] Some films were modified for censorship purposes: a post-credits scene from Toy Story 2 was edited out;[48] nudity was eliminated from Splash by adding digital hair, blurring, and cropping certain scenes;[49][d] films such as Adventures in Babysitting, Free Solo, and Hamilton, were edited to remove profanity;[e] The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) was edited to remove racial slurs, and the short film Santa's Workshop (1932) was edited to remove the "stereotypical black doll".[51] Many older films and animated shorts debuted on Disney+ unedited, but carrying a disclaimer on their "Details" page regarding scenes containing cultural stereotypes.[53][54][f] Some series are missing episodes, including The Simpsons[g] (which is streaming exclusively on the service),[57] Darkwing Duck, The Little Mermaid, and Tron: Uprising.[58][59][h] X-Men: Days of Future Past began airing uncensored in mid-2020, which is noteworthy because it contains both nudity and the "F" word.[61]

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,[62] but in April 2019, it was announced that the films would be available at launch along with The Force Awakens[i] and Rogue One,[65][66] with The Last Jedi added on December 26, 2019; The Rise of Skywalker added on May 4, 2020,[67] and Solo: A Star Wars Story was added on July 10, 2020.[68]

In the United States, most of the films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe were available at launch, with the exception of seven films: Thor: Ragnarok (added on December 5, 2019), Black Panther (added on March 4, 2020), Avengers: Infinity War (added on June 25, 2020), and Ant-Man and the Wasp (scheduled to be available August 14, 2020), due to existing licensing deals with Netflix; and The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, which are unavailable because their distribution rights are respectively owned by Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures.[69][70]

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.[71][72] The latter includes The Mandalorian, a television series 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 an untitled spin-off series with Ewan McGregor reprising his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi from the prequel trilogy.[21][73] 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.[39] In January 2019, it was reported that Disney will spend up to $500 million in original content for the service.[74] The Mandalorian alone is expected to cost $100 million, across two seasons of eight episodes each.[75]

In January 2019, Disney+ ordered Diary of a Future President from CBS Television Studios, its first series from an outside production company.[76]

A television series remake of the film High Fidelity was initially announced for Disney+, but in April 2019, it was announced that the project had been moved to Hulu, citing concerns from its staff that the positioning of Disney+ as a family-friendly service was at odds with their creative vision for the series.[77] Love, Victor, a spin-off of the film Love, Simon, was similarly shifted from Disney+ to Hulu in February 2020.[78]

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+[79] by Fox Family.[80] Original episodic content will be released weekly, opposed to all at once[81] with the release time to be 12:01 a.m. PT on Fridays, starting November 15, 2019.[82]

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),[71] 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).[83][84] 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.[85]

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.[83][84] 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.[86]

Device support and service features

Disney+ is available for streaming via web browsers on PC and Mac, 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, Sky Q,[87] Now TV devices,[88] PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows 10.[89][90] Content available on Disney+ is also listed in the Apple TV app.[91]

Accessibility features include closed captioning, Descriptive Video Service, audio description, and audio navigation assistance.[92]

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.[93] Subtitles and dubbing are available in up to 16 languages.[94] A substantial amount of content is available in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages on the Indian counterpart, Disney+Hotstar.[95]

In late May 2020, the service added the ability to switch between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios for early Simpsons episodes,[96] after the service received backlash for stretching those episodes to 16:9 by default at launch.[97] Disney had done this "in order to guarantee visual quality and consistency across all 30 seasons." To accommodate the feature, Disney Streaming Services "had to reconfigure its content-delivery engine" while ensuring the new feature would not break any existing features such as continue watching, watchlists, and auto-playing, as they did not want to treat the 4:3 versions as bonus content. The resulting changes allowed Disney to apply the existing audio, subtitle information, episode artwork, and other metadata from the episodes to both aspect ratios regardless of which is chosen by the user. Joe Rice, vice president of media product at Disney Streaming Services, added that these adjustments "opens up a number of exciting opportunities for novel ways of presenting content in the future."[96]

Launch

Disney+ was launched early in the Netherlands on September 12, 2019 as a free trial. It officially launched in the Netherlands, United States and Canada 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 launched in Austria, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Switzerland on March 24, 2020.[23][98] 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.[98] In Spain, a linear Disney+ TV channel launched alongside the streaming service, which broadcasts programming from Disney+. It's available exclusively on Movistar+, their release partner in the region.[99]

In December 2019, it was announced that Canal+ would be the exclusive distributor of Disney+ in France.[100] Three days before the launch, Kevin Mayer, chairman of the Direct-to-Consumer & International division, announced that Disney+ is delaying its launch in France until April 7, instead of the original March 24 date, because of a request from the French government to prevent internet gridlock as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic placing additional strain on communications networks.[101]

In February 2020, Iger announced that it planned to launch Disney+ in India on March 29, 2020 by means of its existing service Hotstar, rebranding its paid tiers as a co-branded service. Hotstar was acquired by Disney during the Fox purchase, and has been the dominant streaming service in the country.[102][103] However, it was postponed due to the Indian Premier League being rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[104] It was then launched on April 3, 2020.[105]

In April 2020, it was announced that Disney+ original content would be licensed to pay TV and streaming operator OSN, starting on April 9, in the MENA region with Disney noting that they had no current "plan to launch Disney+ as a standalone service in the region in the near future".[106][107]

The service launched in Japan on June 11, 2020 as part of Disney's existing partnership with NTT Docomo, and succeeded the existing Disney Deluxe service in the region.[108]

Disney+ will launch in Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark on September 15, 2020.[109]

  Available
  Confirmed launch
  Third-party distribution
Launch rollout
Release date Country/Territory Release partner
November 12, 2019[c]  Canada
 Netherlands
 United States
November 19, 2019[32]  Australia
 New Zealand
 Puerto Rico
March 24, 2020[110]  Austria
 Germany Telekom[111]
 Ireland Sky[112]
 Italy TIMvision[112]
 Spain Movistar+[113]
  Switzerland
 United Kingdom Sky[112]
O2[114]
April 2, 2020[115] Channel Islands
 Isle of Man
April 3, 2020[105][j]  India Hotstar
April 7, 2020[116]  France Canal+[100]
April 30, 2020[117][118]  Monaco
 Wallis and Futuna Canal+ Calédonie[100]
France New Caledonia
France French West Indies Canal+ Caraïbes[100]
 French Guiana
June 11, 2020[108]  Japan NTT Docomo[108] (Bundled with Disney Deluxe)
September 15, 2020[109]  Belgium
 Denmark
 Finland
 Iceland
 Luxembourg
 Norway
 Portugal
 Sweden
Mid 2020[118]  Réunion Canal+ Réunion[100]
 Mayotte Canal+ Mayotte[100]
 Mauritius Canal+ Maurice[100]
November 2020[119]  Brazil
Late 2020[120] Latin America

Reception

On November 13, 2019, a day after its launch, Disney announced that the streaming service had already signed up more than 10 million subscribers.[121][122] Disney+ has been well-received, thanks to its affordable price and for the extensive 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.[123] Nick Pino of TechRadar stated, "If Disney keeps it updated with new content, Disney+ could rival Netflix sooner rather than later."[124]

Upon launch, Disney+ experienced significant technical difficulties. Users complained about receiving error messages that the service was down and that they were "unable to connect", which were irritating because many of them had paid for the service months in advance.[125] In some instances, passwords needed to be reset to enable 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 televisions or awkwardly stretched out to that aspect ratio.[97] FXX's now-defunct "Simpsons World" streaming service was similarly criticized when it launched.[126] In response, Disney stated they would make the ability to watch the episodes of the first 19 seasons and some from season 20 in either the 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio in early 2020.[127] The feature was made available on May 28, 2020.[96]

Some have noted that episodes of The Simpsons, X-Men, DuckTales, Phineas and Ferb, Kim Possible, and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes are presented almost entirely out of order, while some series are missing episodes.[58][59] Others have questioned why an extensive catalog of Disney-owned material is missing from the platform, including Marvel content,[128][129] Disney Junior titles,[130] various Muppets media,[131] and Star Wars spin-offs.[132][133][134] On June 26, 2020, the 2017 DuckTales series had its episodes arranged in the proper order while co-creator of Phineas and Ferb, Jeff "Swampy" Marsh, has stated that they are working on correcting the order of his series.[135]

Disney+ was the top trending Google search term in 2019 in the US.[136] In February 2020, Disney reported that Disney+ had 26.5 million subscribers by the end of 2019, and 28.6 million by February 3, 2020.[137] By April, Disney+ had 50 million paid subscribers, with approximately 8 million of those coming from India.[138] The service had 54.5 million subscribers by May 4.[120][139]

Notes

  1. ^ Including the French Guiana, French West Indies, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna overseas territories
  2. ^ Through Hotstar
  3. ^ a b The service received a soft launch on September 12, 2019 in the Netherlands.
  4. ^ Similarly, minor cleavage was blurred in Wizards of Waverly Place.[50]
  5. ^ Words like "fuck", "goddamn", and "homo" were censored;[51] however, Hamilton will keep one instance of "fuck" as that is allowed in a PG-13 film.[52]
  6. ^ An additional notice is displayed for titles containing depictions of tobacco.[55]
  7. ^ "Stark Raving Dad" (1991) is the only Simpsons episode unavailable on Disney+; the episode was pulled from general circulation in March 2019 following renewed sexual abuse allegations against guest star Michael Jackson.[56]
  8. ^ Additionally, the first few episodes of Gravity Falls had the symbol on Grunkle Stan's fez removed.[60]
  9. ^ 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, although no further promotions from Starz are seen once sign-up is completed.[63][64]
  10. ^ The service was originally to be launched on March 29, but was delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[104]

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External links