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The Mandalorian looks great, so when does the new Disney streaming service come to the UK?

Wednesday, October 10th 2018 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

I don’t know about you, but all the talk of The Mandalorian has got me all excited about the new Disney streaming service.

I mean, a live action Star Wars series following “the travails of a lone gunfighter” in the mould of Jango and Boba Fett, written by Jon Favreau and with episode directors including Dave Filoni, Bryce Dallas Howard and Taika Waititi? Sign me up.

There’s just one minor problem: the service hasn’t been launched yet. In fact, it doesn’t even have a name. So, what do we know about the new service?

Disney chief exec Bob Iger told investors in August the company was “on track” for a late-2019 launch and said the price will reflect the fact that it will have significantly less content than Netflix and, at the same time, the cost of producing and owning the content it does have.

Projects in the pipeline include new episodes of the Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series and The Mandalorian, as well as new series based on High School Musical and Monsters, Inc.

Upcoming theatrical releases including Captain Marvel and a live-action version of Lady and the Tramp will also appear on the new service, alongside hundreds of classic movies and thousands of TV episodes. The inclusion of Captain Marvel is particularly significant because Marvel films have traditionally landed on Netflix after doing the rounds at cinemas and on Sky.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, will be the first Marvel film not to appear on Netflix – it'll be on Disney's own platform instead

'Segmentation'

Ed Barton, chief analyst at consultancy firm Ovum, said this is one of the advantages Disney will have in entering the streaming market – not only is it building its own library of exclusive content, it is actively taking content off its rivals by ending licensing agreements.

As well as owning the Marvel and Star Wars franchises, Disney’s brands also include Pixar, National Geographic and ESPN, which launched its own streaming service, ESPN+, earlier this year.

Mr Barton said because of the strength of these brands, the Disney streaming service is “unlikely to be one subscription service to rule them all” in the style of Netflix.

“You’ve got live sport and a significant kids audience and these don’t sit comfortably together. My guess is there will be some sort of segmentation as this allows you to go super deep in serving the Marvel fanbase or the Star Wars fanbase, providing a real alternative to Netflix or Amazon.”

The new streaming service won’t be the first launched by Disney in the UK. DisneyLife appeared in 2015 and as well as allowing users to stream films and TV series, it also features games, music, e-books and more.

This is what Mr Barton is talking about – offering loyal fans more than just the ability to stream the latest episode. He describes DisneyLife, which wasn't launched in the US, as “very much a dress rehearsal for Disney to learn the market, things like network costs, pricing and customer service – all the dull things about running a subscription service”.

New episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars will be coming to the new Disney subscription service

'Seriously iconic'

Mr Barton said he doesn’t Disney to “smash up” the streaming market in 2019 he does believe it has the chance to disrupt the establishment, which he named as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, of which Disney will own 60% when it completes the takeover of 21st Century Fox.

“They do have a chance to disrupt the OTT subscription market based on the strength of the brand – it’s seriously iconic and audiences go nuts for Disney content all over the world," said Mr Barton.

“The thing about Disney is that it’s truly global. We tend to immediately think of the US, which is of course a mature market, but there are greenfield growth opportunities – such as south east Asia and Africa – all over the place.”

Bob Iger himself has said that Disney plans to "walk before we run as it relates to volume of content because it takes time to build the kind of content library that ultimately we intend to build" and with the number of licence agreements it must have in place that's hardly surprising.

That said, the initial line-up looks pretty good to us.

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