Like many breakups, the one between Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) might get a bit messy. The current deal, which began in 2016 and expires in 2019, gives Netflix exclusive streaming rights to all new Disney, Pixar, LucasFilm, and Marvel movies.
With Disney now planning to launch its own Netflix-like streaming service at some point in 2019, it won't be renewing its deal, at least for some of its movies. The company will no longer license Netflix any animated or live-action movies under its own Disney banner nor will it sell the streaming leader access to any Pixar films.
Disney CEO Robert Iger said during the company's Q3 earnings call that no decision has been made as to LucasFilm (Star Wars) or Marvel movies. He left the door open to continuing to license them to a partner like Netflix, but not necessarily Netflix, or for the company to start streaming services specifically for those properties.
Netflix said in a statement that "U.S. Netflix members will have access to Disney films on the service through the end of 2019, including all new films that are shown theatrically through the end of 2018." Disney's as-yet-unnamed streaming service will serve as the home for any of the company's 2019 films under the Disney or Pixar banners, including the highly anticipated Frozen 2, Toy Story 4, and a live-action version of The Lion King.
What about Netflix's Disney shows?
Disney's successful partnership with Netflix has led to a number of shows based on Marvel comics characters. That deal has spawned Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and the upcoming The Defenders as well as The Punisher. Those series will apparently not be impacted by Disney creating its own streaming service.
"We continue to do business with the Walt Disney Co. globally on many fronts, including our ongoing relationship with Marvel TV," Netflix said in a statement released to the media.
Disney may not be ending its deal to produce shows for Netflix, but the long-term future of the relationship seems a bit shaky. During the Q3 earnings call, Iger acknowledged the Netflix partnership would continue, but also made it clear that Disney will also be producing content exclusive to its upcoming platform.
We'll also be making a substantial investment in original movies, original television series and short-form content for this platform, produced by our Studio, Disney Interactive and Disney Channel teams. Subscribers will also have access to a vast collection of films and television content from our library.
Iger made it clear that no decision had been made about Marvel and Lucasfilm properties and that they could ultimately be given their own streaming service, become part of the Disney service, or continue to be licensed to a third party.
What could this mean for Netflix?
In the short term, nothing changes, and in 2020 Netflix loses some movie content. That sounds like a big deal, but the streaming leader has lost many movies and already aired shows in recent years. The big issue that could impact Netflix is whether it someday loses its partnership with Marvel TV.
But there's no need to panic. Iger said "there is no change from our side" when it comes to the TV licensing agreement. Netflix should prepare for a Disney-free future, which it may have already started doing with its purchase of comic book publisher Millaworld, but as of now its universe of Marvel TV shows will continue to move forward.