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Disney’s streaming gamble is all about not getting eaten by Netflix

TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images

The Walt Disney Company has ditched Netflix in favour of its own streaming service set to launch in 2019. That, in itself, is significant, but it comes right after Netflix made a move to take on Disney at its own game.

On Monday, Netflix made it’s first acquisition – Millarworld, the Scottish comic book company. The streaming service hopes Millarworld will be what Marvel is for Disney, and seems to be an attempt to get a step ahead of others who are deciding to go it alone.

Netflix is one of the world’s biggest media companies, investing heavily on original content that in the past few years has come into its own, winning some of the industry’s most prestigious awards.

It also partners with other huge broadcasting and cable television companies like Comcast to boost its content and compete with other similar services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime.

To avoid being eaten up by what’s now become a rival, one of the world’s biggest intellectual property companies has decided to cut ties with Netflix and go it alone. On Tuesday, Disney announced plans to launch its own paid video streaming service following its acquisition of a majority stake in BAMTech.

The yet unnamed service, launching in 2019, will include Disney and Pixar content like the sequel to Frozen and Toy Story 4. It will also include “original movies, TV shows, short-form content, and other Disney-branded exclusives”. However, the announcement does not include Marvel and Star Wars, two of the company’s biggest brand acquisitions in the past decade.

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It’s unclear what will happen to DisneyLife, its all-in-one streaming “experience” launched in the UK in 2016. For some, it was expected Disney would not break free from Netflix for at least a few more years. But the company had other ideas. “The media landscape is increasingly defined by direct relationships between content creators and consumers, and our control of BAMTech’s full array of innovative technology will give us the power to forge those connections, along with the flexibility to quickly adapt to shifts in the market,” said Disney chairman and CEO Robert A. Iger. “This acquisition and the launch of our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the company.”

In 2018, Disney will also launch a dedicated multi-sports streaming services through its subsidiary ESPN. Netflix’s Millarworld acquisition is another step forward for it becoming a fully-fledged media house in its own right, rather than just the middle man. But to continue to compete with likes of Disney it will have to keep investing in its own content. And that means making acquisitions. Others have a similar mindset. Just last year, Facebook announced it is in talks with TV studios and video producers about licensing shows including scripted shows, game shows and sports.


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