Disney and Netflix are parting ways.
Disney will pull its movies from Netflix and launch its own Disney-branded streaming service in 2019, which will “become the exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar,” the Walt Disney Company announced Tuesday.
The service, which will “feature a vast collection of library content, including Disney and Pixar movies and Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television programming,” will also be home to “an annual slate of original movies, TV shows, short-form content and other Disney-branded exclusives,” with Disney making a “significant investment” in the production of the streaming exclusives.
The report made no mention of two of Disney’s biggest subsidiaries, Marvel and Lucasfilm, as Disney is considering stand-alone streaming services for their Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm properties. “We’re mindful of the volume of product that would go into those services, and we want to be careful about that,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger said during Disney’s earnings call, adding that Marvel Studios’ live-action Netflix series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and soon The Defenders and The Punisher) won’t be going anywhere.
With 16 produced movies so far — and with at least seven more on the way between now and 2019 — Marvel Studios’ catalogue of films could potentially sustain its own streaming service, and that’s not including all the hours of content from two seasons of ABC’s Agent Carter and multiple seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Even with the Netflix co-productions staying in place, Disney will surely be interested in launching new animated and live-action Marvel properties that would be available only through their own streaming service.
Lucasfilm, acquired by Disney in 2012, might not fare as well in regards to pre-existing content: so far, the only Lucasfilm productions under Disney have been Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels animated series and the Star Wars Forces of Destiny series of animated shorts. (Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters in December, followed by the Untitled Han Solo Movie in May 2018 and Star Wars: Episode IX in May 2019, with a fifth Indiana Jones dropping July 2020.)
Disney’s potential Lucasfilm streaming service could host every Star Wars episode (aside from the 1977 original, A New Hope, which is owned in perpetuity by original producers 20th Century Fox), all four Indiana Jones movies, as well as a diverse but relatively limited filmography that includes everything from Labyrinth and Willow to Howard the Duck and Red Tails. Disney could take steps to work out deals to include Star Wars productions that weren’t produced or owned by Disney — like Star Wars: The Clone Wars (the animated movie and pair of animated series) — but even with a plethora of quality content, consumers may not find enough value in such a limited selection.
Unless Disney produces that sizable “annual slate of original movies, TV shows, short-form content and other Disney-branded exclusives.”
Marvel and Star Wars content that you can’t get anywhere else would surely drive audiences to Disney’s streaming service — whether that content takes the form of live-action and animated series, movies, and the resurrection of One Shots, short films set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that used to accompany Marvel Studios’ home releases.
Disney already has a handful of original animated content that could populate the Marvel streaming service — Disney XD’s animated Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers Assemble, Guardians of the Galaxy, and most recently, Marvel’s Spider-Man — but the service could be the door to even more new, original Marvel animated series.
Disney’s streaming services could also mean new Star Wars shows, both animated and live-action — like that long-gestating live-action Star Wars television series that has been in the proverbial pipeline since 2005.
Once titled Star Wars: Underworld and developed by George Lucas, the series got to the point where 100 scripts had been fully written. The proposed series would have been an hour-long drama that was described by former Lucasfilm producer Rick McCallum as a mix of The Godfather, “Deadwood in space,” and “Empire [Strikes Back] on steroids.”
Better yet, the series is more frozen in carbonite than dead: when asked by Slashfilm if Lucasfilm did away with all those scripts, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said, “No, interestingly enough, that’s an area we’ve spent a lot of time [on]… reading through the material that [George Lucas] developed is something that we very much would like to explore.”
An exclusive streaming service, not bound by anything other than Disney’s rule, could be the way to do it. Disney offerings will continue to be available on Netflix only through the end of 2018 before Disney launches their streaming service in early 2019.