Disney has announced they will no longer license their movies to Netflix after next year, as the company develops their own streaming services: ESPN, and a yet-to-be-named platform to launch in 2019 that will deliver Walt Disney Studios productions. The timing of my call was awful: Disney's shares rallied 7.6% to $115.84 before starting to fall again.
As a result of the acquisition, Disney will also be expanding its plans for its ESPN-branded direct-to-consumer service, giving fans access to 10,000 additional events annually. There are TV shows like ABC's Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and Marvel's Inhumans, Freeform's Cloak and Dagger and New Warriors, Disney XD's Star Wars Rebels, online content, plus all the movies, and more when other licensing deals expire. According to Disney CEO Bob Iger, the company is still considering how it wants to bring Marvel and LucasFilm titles to consumers. Then, starting in 2019, a brand new Disney streaming platform will be available with plenty of Disney and Pixar content, including the upcoming Frozen 2, live-action The Lion King, and Toy Story 4.
The moves set a clear course for the media giant to launch Netflix-style direct-to-consumer internet services from ESPN and Disney.
Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger may have said it all when he boasted, "No one is better positioned to lead the industry into this dynamic new era". This is big news to both companies and will definitely put a dent into Netflix's subscriber base.
Disney and ESPN are walking a bit of a tightrope here, because they have to balance the legacy TV business with this new direct to consumer streaming OTT model during this transitional phase. But everything has a weakness and Disney's just fired a couple of proton torpedoes squarely into Netflix's with the announcement that it's pulling its movies from the service. The company is now paying out over $1.5 billion to own 75% of Bamtech - the video distribution company created by Major League Baseball that is working on building both streaming services.
Disney's announcement is just the latest blow to Netflix's catalog.
It will be a battle of the heavyweights and if Disney could make an attractive package that could include live sports along with its Disney programming it could be the ultimate solution to cord cutters who often see sports as the missing piece and ultimate reason why they hang on to their cable subscription.
This is not Disney's first attempt to go directly to the consumer. This release comes as part of Disney's competitive struggle to offer the most exclusive access to some of this generation's classics, with the Creatv Media's founder Peter Csathy claiming that although "Netflix has had a huge head start, Disney thinks it can win".