Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Company and former head of Walt Disney Parks and Experiences, speaks during a media preview of the 2019 D23 Expo in Anaheim, California on August 22, 2019.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg via Getty Images
Disney is doing everything possible to use its streaming services.
On Thursday, the company unveiled a series of impressive Disney + announcements with over 100 films and shows affiliated with franchises including Star Wars, Marvel, FX, and National Geographic.
The company’s reimagined strategy, which is heavily focused on the longstanding streaming service Disney +, is all about “quality over volume,” said Disney’s chairman and former CEO Bob Iger during his investor day presentation. Iger, who left the company nine months ago to focus on content, said “quality has value.”
During the presentation, Disney provided insights and updates on its three streaming services as well as its theatrical release schedule. It has also raised estimates for its Disney + subscriber numbers, announced increased investments in original content, and reiterated that it will be profitable in 2024.
New shows in the Star Wars universe, including one featuring fan favorite characters, Ahsoka Tano, were welcomed by fans on social media during the announcement. Three more Marvel series were unveiled, as well as a vacation special starring The Guardians of the Galaxy.
Disney typed pop culture icons in front of and behind the camera for these projects and for theatrical releases. In particular, Lucasfilm has hired Patty Jenkins to direct “Rogue Squadron,” a new Star Wars film due out in 2023.
The company has a number of films planned for theaters in the coming years, which shows its continued commitment to theaters. This includes two new Pixar movies released in 2022, a huge selection of Marvel movies, and even non-franchise films like “Jungle Cruise”.
CEO Bob Chapek admitted that Disney had raised around $ 13 billion at the global box office in 2019, calling that success “no reason to sneeze”. In fact, Disney had seven films that year with a total volume of more than $ 1 billion.
According to Chapek, Disney’s content strategy is about “balance” and satisfying consumer demand. Of the 100 or so projects that Disney made available to the public on Thursday, around 80% will go directly to Disney +.
Because of this additional content, the company expects 230 to 260 million subscribers to Disney + by 2024. In addition, Disney plans to increase the cost of the service to $ 7.99, which is an increase of $ 1.
Disney executives also said the company will experience peak losses in fiscal 2021 and profitability through fiscal 2024. Additionally, the company plans to spend between $ 8 billion and $ 9 billion in 2024 as more will be spent on its five core brands.
Here’s a breakdown of the updates Disney shared on Thursday:
Disney + now has 86.8 million subscribers. That’s more than the 73 million the company reported at the end of its fourth fiscal quarter.
Kareem Daniel, head of the company’s new media and entertainment sales group, announced that Disney + has had 10 Marvel series, 10 Star Wars series, 15 Disney live action, Disney animation and Pixar series, and 15 Disney live action and Disney animated series will be featured, and Pixar films.
In the world of Star Wars, Disney + will add two new series from Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau, the masterminds of “The Mandalorian” – “The Rangers of the New Republic” and “Ahsoka”.
There will also be a series called “Lando” which follows the smooth Lando Calrissian from the original film trilogy, as well as a series called “The Acolyte” which takes place in the last days of the High Republic. It has been referred to as a “mystery thriller”.
These shows will be part of the previously announced series “Andor”, “Kenobi” and the animated series “The Bad Batch”.
Lucasfilm director Kathleen Kennedy teased fans that Hayden Christensen would repeat his role as Darth Vader in “Kenobi” with Ewan McGregor in the title role. She also clarified that, under the direction of Deborah Chow, the series would take place 10 years after the events of “Revenge of the Sith”.
The Mandalorian and the Child in Disney + “The Mandalorian”.
Outside of the Star Wars universe, Lucasfilm is also creating a series based on the Jim Henson film “Willow”.
Marvel Studios already had a number of TV shows on the streaming platform, but Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige was happy to reveal a few more on Thursday. “Secret Invasion” follows Nick Fury and the Skrull Talos, “Ironheart” is about teenage genius Riri Williams and “Armor Wars” is about War Machine.
Disney + will feature a number of new original series and films based on older Disney items, including “The Mighty Ducks” and “Turner and Hooch”. Live-action versions of “Pinocchio” and “Peter Pan and Wendy” will also be available exclusively for the streaming service.
“Disenchanted,” a sequel to the hit movie “Enchanted,” is also streamed exclusively on Disney +, with Amy Adams returning as Giselle.
Disney Animation has produced a series with Baymax from “Big Hero Six” and a series based on characters from “Zootopia”. There will also be musical comedy series based on “Princess and the Frog” and “Moana”.
Pixar will have series based on “Up” and “Cars” as well as new original series called “Win or Lose”.
The content of Disney + is impressive and extensive, but the company’s executives reiterated as the presentation progressed that its strategy is not about volume, but about quality. It’s also about opening up new markets.
Rebecca Campbell, Disney’s director of international operations and direct customers, said the launch in Latin America was a huge success for the company, and Disney + will be rolled out in Eastern Europe, South Korea and Hong Kong in 2021.
In Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, Star will be integrated into the Disney + app from February 23, 2021. In Europe, Disney is increasing the price to 8.99 euros and the local equivalent in other markets.
Disney + is also adding a “Mature Content Opt-In” feature that allows older viewers to sign up and watch titles such as Logan, Modern Family and Atlanta.
The company announced that it has signed a contract with Comcast to bring Disney + and ESPN + to the cable company’s set-top boxes and platforms, reaching more than 20 million Comcast cable and internet customers.
At the box office
After rival Warner Bros. announced that it would release 17 films the same day on HBO Max and in theaters the next day, analysts and investors are excited to see how Disney will maneuver through the uncertainty still looming from a global pandemic is.
Daniel said that theatrical releases help build franchises, which Disney has done well with blockbusters from Marvel and Star Wars over the past decade. Chapek repeated the same feeling.
While the company will be releasing the Raya and the Last Dragon animated feature on-demand via Disney + and in theaters simultaneously on premium video, it has no plans to make this a permanent box office strategy.
Disney executives said they will remain flexible about future releases, but made sure that titles like “Black Widow” and “Jungle Cruise” hit theaters as planned.
The company unveiled a number of new projects. Specifically, Patty Jenkins will direct the previously unnamed Star Wars film for Christmas 2023. The film is called “Rogue Squadron”.
This makes Jenkins the first woman to direct a Star Wars feature film. Victoria Mahoney became the first woman on a Star Wars directorial team after directing the second unit on “The Rise of Skywalker”. Deborah Chow, who directs the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series, was also the director and episode of “The Mandalorian”.
Marvel added a few more titles to its list, including a “Fantastic Four” movie.
Pixar will have two new films in 2022. The first is Turning Red, a film about a young teenager who turns into a giant red panda every time she gets excited. The second is “Lightyear”, the story of Buzz Lightyear, the character who inspired the toy from “Toy Story”. Chris Evans is playing this new Buzz Lightyear.
As of December 2, the company said it had 38.8 million Hulu subscribers, and Hulu + Live TV has 4 million paying subscribers, the fifth largest pay-TV provider overall. The company recently raised the price of the platform from $ 55 to $ 65.
Following the success of films such as Palm Springs, Run and Bad Hair, Disney will use 20th Century Studios and Searchlight to create original films exclusively for Hulu.
The platform will also feature a show called “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez, and “The Dropout,” a show about Elizabeth Holmes with Kate McKinnon.
There is also a limited series called “Dopesick” starring Michael Keaton, Rosario Dawson and Peter Sarsgaard.
David E. Kelley, the writer of “Big Little Lies” and “Ally McBeal,” directs a show for Hulu called “Nine Perfect Strangers,” starring Nicole Kidman, Melissa McCarthy and Regina Hall.
The streaming platform will also have new seasons of “Ramy”, “The Great” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
The Kardashian family, which will end their show “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” after Season 20 in 2021, will join the platform, the company said. Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall, and Kylie will create global content that will be streamed exclusively on Hulu in the United States. This content is expected to be published at the end of 2021.
The FX channel, which has original content on Hulu, has granted “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, has another four seasons and will have new shows called “The Old Man” starring Jeff Bridges and “Reservation Dogs” by Taika Waititi.
FX will be showing an “Alien” series based on the world of the “Alien” movie franchise. The platform will also have a show called “Shogun” based on the best-selling novel by James Clavell.
The company expects Hulu to have between 50 and 60 million subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024. Disney also expects Hulu to be profitable in fiscal 2023.
On Thursday, the company announced it had 11.5 million ESPN + subscribers.
Disney has signed a contract with the SEC to add the Southeastern Conference to ESPN + from the 2024 season. ABC will also be the home of the Saturday afternoon games in 2024.
The company will also rely on sports betting to target younger audiences.
The platform has also given Steve A. Smith his own ESPN + show and is bringing back “Peyton’s Places” for a third season.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC.