It's been a month since Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) said it wouldn't renew its premium streaming agreement with Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) when that deal expires at the end of 2019. Instead, the House of Mouse will build its own streaming-video service around technology from BAMTech, a digital-media platform originally created by Major League Baseball 17 years ago.
Disney's management has been tight-lipped about the company's streaming plans since that announcement, and there's much we still don't know about the streaming future for Disney films. But at an industry conference this week, Disney CEO Bob Iger dropped several new nuggets of insight about his company's streaming-video plans.
1. Marvel and Star Wars films will go back to Disney
Netflix users with a yen for superheroes and storm troopers had been hoping that these crucial studio brands could stay with Netflix in 2020 and beyond. That idea is not in the cards anymore. Iger said:
What we announced at earnings when we announced the BAMTech controlling position is that the Disney movies would be on this platform. We left open what we are going to do with Marvel and Star Wars. We've now decided that we will put the Marvel and Star Wars movies on this app, as well. So it will have the entire output of the studio: animation, live action at Disney, including Pixar, Star Wars and all the Marvel films.
It's the whole enchilada. If you want Disney content on a streaming platform, the BAMTech service will be the place for all of it. Netflix has already kicked off an attempt to make up for the upcoming lack of Marvel movies by acquiring its own high-quality library of superhero characters and stories, but the undisputed king of that robust market is definitely moving out.
2. Disney's streaming service will get its own exclusive content
The company's impressive library contains hundreds of movies, dozens of TV shows, and thousands of short-form content pieces. All of that will be available to Disney's new streaming service, but of course, not all at once. The compelling Disney Vault concept will ensure that consumers are coming back for carefully controlled helpings of the classic stuff.
On top of that powerful content cache, the platform is getting a whole new set of exclusive eyeball magnets, made just for the BAMTech app. "The studio is already developing and will produce 4 to 5 original films exclusively for the app, primarily live action," Iger said. "On the TV side, we're going to create 4 to 5 original Disney-branded television series for the app, and we're going to produce probably 3 to 4 television movies that are Disney-branded."
3. Launch plans
The full streaming experience won't be available until the spring of 2020 because Netflix holds the exclusive streaming contract for many important properties until the end of 2019. That being said, Iger explained that the domestic situation may differ from some international markets where Netflix never signed a streaming deal with Disney.
"We're going to launch it internationally as well, and it's possible that some markets will launch the service earlier than we'll launch in the United States because of windowing opportunities that we have on the motion picture side that we don't have here in the United States," he said.
Furthermore, a separate sports-streaming app with access to ESPN-branded content will launch as early as the spring of 2018. This is even closer to the BAMTech platform's roots, since that service always was built to support live streaming of sporting events. The ESPN app will be ad supported, but the Disney-styled TV and movies platform will be ad free and exclusively driven by subscription fees.
Iger referred to his streaming platform as an app throughout the conference presentation, but he also made it clear that it won't be strictly a smartphone and tablet experience. Cable companies and other broadcasters want in on the action, too: "We expect that this app will get -- we've already heard from a number of distributors who would like to distribute the app. It's Disney," he said.
That's the power of a market-leading brand name. If any studio can hit a streaming-video home run without leaning on Netflix in the long run, it would be Disney.