the streaming wars

Disney+ Arriving in Europe, Unlikely to Want for Audience

A floating, sealable pod, the ideal quarantine-on-the-go solution. Photo: Disney+

Roughly five months after its American launch, Disney+ is ready for an international rollout. Starting March 24, the Mouse House’s streaming service — stocked with everything from the Baby Yoda Show (a.k.a. The Mandalorian) to The Simpsons — will open for service in eight new locations: the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain, and Switzerland. The European debuts represent the opening salvo in a multifront campaign to compete with Netflix around the globe, first with Disney+ and eventually with the more adult-skewing Hulu.

Disney decided to move forward with the international expansion of Disney+ (the service has been in the Netherlands for months) despite much of the world enduring the COVID-19 pandemic. While the company canceled a planned launch event in London earlier this month, it appears to be betting that audiences in quarantine (or simply spending more time at home) will welcome the addition of a new platform with more than 350 series and 500 films, including most of the famed Disney catalogue of animated and kid-focused fare. As in the States, Disney is offering a sizable discount for early adopters, taking £10/€10 off the regular annual subscription price of £49/€59. The service costs £5.99 or €6.99 if ordered month to month. Disney isn’t the only company moving forward with launch plans: Mobile-centric Quibi says it’s still set to debut next month, while HBO Max appears to be on track for a May premiere. (These plans are all subject to revision, of course. Disney on Friday decided to “briefly pause” the scheduled March 29 launch of Disney+ in India partly because of coronavirus-related issues.)

As important as Disney+ is to Disney’s American and international streaming ambitions, it is not designed by itself to serve as some sort of Netflix slayer. While its programming is popular to a wide range of consumers, Disney+ is, by design, limited in scope: It exists to serve families and folks who want content designed for audiences of all ages. In order to truly start competing for the 100 million-plus subscribers Netflix boasts outside the U.S., Disney will need to start making its Hulu service available around the globe. Disney execs have said they plan to start doing so next year, though given how timetables for entertainment releases are shifting daily, it seems possible the company could choose to move up Hulu’s international debut.

As for the European version of Disney+, its lineup will closely mirror that of the American product. Interestingly, even though all of The Mandalorian has been released in the U.S., Disney+ still plans to run the Star Wars spinoff on a weekly basis rather than making all episodes available to binge at once. The first two episodes will debut on Disney+ launch day, with future installments premiering every Friday, starting March 27.

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Disney+ Arriving in Europe, Unlikely to Want for Audience