To put in that in context: in the US market Netflix has around 60.6 million US subscribers to Hulu’s 28.5 million, HBO’s 34 million (for TV) and 8 million (streaming on HBO Now), CBS All Access has 8 million and the Disney-owned ESPN+ has 3.5 million. Netflix’s global reach is 158 million subscriptions; Amazon, which includes Prime Video in its shipping subscription service, does not release video-only subscription numbers.)
In the Australian market the launch of Disney+ means there is a significant content migration from the rival platform Stan.
The Disney+ slate includes 13 films from the Marvel library including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Infinity War and Endgame, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, the two Guardians of the Galaxy, three Iron Man and three Thor films, all eight Star Wars films, Rogue One and Solo, Disney animation classics such as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Mulan and The Lion King, Pixar’s Finding Nemo, Finding Dory, Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 and Wall-E, the Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean films, The Simpsons, Mary Poppins Returns and more.
It also includes a handful of original series, notably the first live action Star Wars series The Mandalorian, a live-action adaptation of Lady and the Tramp and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
Significantly, all of the Disney+ titles will be exclusive to the platform.
Speaking to international media including The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Disney’s chairman of direct-to-consumer and international Kevin Mayer said the studio was looking at following Disney+ with international launches for its Hulu and ESPN+ internationally.
Mayer also said the studio would not rule out a joint-venture partner for an international Hulu play.
“Our proclivity would be to fully own our services just because we can control them, however, given certain market conditions it might make sense to take on a partner,” Mayer said. “We haven’t identified any markets yet where we’re definitively going to do that, but I would never say that we won’t do that. There might be times where that makes sense.”
Mayer said the Disney+ platform would be family-focused and that other studio-owned titles, such as Marvel’s Deadpool films as well as Fox and FX content, would instead be placed either on the Hulu platform or, where that platform does not exist, sold via traditional television distribution.
“These brands confer a huge benefit to us and they also confer boundaries to us,” Mayer said. “Brands only mean something if they’re focused and they do have boundaries and our brands were really powerful and they resonate with consumers.
“But there are limits, we’re not going to have anything that’s R rated or TVMA on the service,” Mayer said. In the US, the R rating is for content restricted to persons under the age of 17, while the TVMA guideline identifies content that contains offensive language, graphic violence or graphic sexual activity.
“There are boundaries to what we put on Disney+ and I think they’re entirely appropriate,” Mayer said.
Mayer said the platform would follow the trend away from content “bingeing” and instead offer its original content on a weekly basis. While Netflix has mostly dropped all episodes of a season at once, other platforms, such as Hulu and Apple TV+ are shifting back toward weekly episodes.
“We think that our content is pretty special and the anticipation and the water cooler effect of having a renewed experience every week is actually going to work really well with our content,” Mayer added. “As weekly drops accumulate you can binge view at the end of the season [and] all of our library series are available for binge viewing immediately, so there will be plenty of bingeable content on our service.”
Mayer also flagged there was growing pressure in the US market to look at the extent to which subscribers shared their accounts – that is, where one account was being used across multiple households – but he noted that such “leakage” was also an accepted part of the streaming business model.
“It’s meant to be a [one] household subscription for sure,” Mayer said, noting that Disney’s terms – up to seven users, 10 devices and four simultaneous streams on the platform’s standard service – were the most generous in the streaming space.
“We have fraud detection capability as others do, and you can tell when someone’s logging in … and you can kind of tell that it might not be a legitimate login so we’ll take steps to try to [secure] that as best we can,” Mayer said. “But there’s a little bit of leak that you get from that. That’s part of the business.”
Michael Idato is the culture editor-at-large of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.