When Kevin Mayer, Disney's chairman of Direct-to-Consumer and International business, took the stage at D23 last month, the first thing he said was that the company's goal is to "entertain and inspire audiences of all ages." Mayer pointed to Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox as the perfect example of the breadth of content that will be on Disney+, the streaming service that's launching on November 12th in the US and Canada. "Never [has so much of] our content been previously available, whether you're nostalgic for your childhood favorites or simply need Baby Groot," Mayer, who was an instrumental figure in the Disney purchases of Pixar, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, said about Disney+.
All Mayer had to do to get people off their seat at the D23 Expo's Disney+ Showcase was tell them that the entire Pixar library would be on the streaming service from day one. And if you ever wanted to know the sheer power held by The Walt Disney Company in the entertainment business, then look no further than when the Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic logos were all side by side shining as the backdrop for Mayer's keynote at the event -- where thousands of Disney's most passionate fans gathered to learn more about Disney+.
At launch, Disney says its streaming service will have over 500 feature films and more than 7,000 show episodes, a number that wouldn't have been possible had the company not gone after Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and, most recently, 21st Century Fox.
But Disney isn't stopping there. In addition to the full Disney movie library, which features classic films like Aladdin, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, being on Disney+, the company has already announced it is working on an Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor and a reboot of Lizzie McGuire with the original actor, Hilary Duff. Disney is a nostalgia machine, and it's going to use that to its advantage over rival streaming services, such as Netflix, which has dominated the space over the past few years.
"This is where we, as Disney, have a real advantage. We have these incredible brands. We have these incredible franchises," Michael Paull, president of Disney Streaming Services, told Engadget. "Making programming is hard, but our hand is very good on that." And Paull isn't exaggerating: Seven of the top 10 highest grossing films of all time are from Disney-owned studios.
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Naturally, Disney is relying on that know-how and the success that has come with it to build a strategy around Disney+. With Star Wars, for instance, the company is using its beloved franchise to create The Mandalorian, a live-action original series for Disney+ that will be anchoring the streaming service at launch. Disney also made a spin-off of the High School Musical TV show from 2006, dubbed High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which will stream exclusively on Disney+ starting November 12th. Oh, and then there's all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, which will be on Disney+ thanks to Disney's 21st Century Fox acquisition in March of this year.
While there's a clear pattern here, one that shows how Disney is betting on the power of nostalgia to lure customers in, that's not the only way the company plans to make Disney+ appealing. It's quite cheap, too: The streaming service is going to cost $6.99 per month, which will give people access to both old and new content from Disney (including movies like Frozen and Captain Marvel) as well as support for 4K, HDR and four simultaneous streams. And that's all for only $6.99 a month, or $12.99 if you get the bundle with ESPN+ and Hulu (with ads). Netflix's basic streaming plan, for comparison, starts at $12.99 and doesn't include 4K content.
What also helps Disney+ is that it will work on a variety of devices from the start, including iOS, Apple TV, Android, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Sure, that's to be expected of any streaming service nowadays, but the fact that Disney isn't leaving any major platform out (aside from Amazon's Fire TV) will make it harder for people to ignore. The Disney+ app itself, which we demoed at D23, is fast, elegant and makes it easy to find films and series based on the brands fans love most -- whether that be Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars or Disney Studios itself.
Paull said that they key with Disney+, ultimately, is to make it feel like one seamless package regardless of what you're watching or what device you're watching on. "We want to make sure that the product doesn't get in the way of the content," he said. "We want to delight consumers with the product. But, really, in the end the product is the content." Paull added that "quality over quantity" will give Disney+ an edge over other streaming services, be it with shows or movies that take people back in time or with new series like Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Moon Knight and, of course, Jon Favreau's The Mandalorian.