LOS ANGELES - Walt Disney Co. pulled back the curtain on its highly anticipated streaming service Disney+, revealing key details about what content will be available on the app, including Disney classics and original shows and movies.
Disney's new service, dubbed Disney+ will launch November 12 and cost $6.99 a month, said Kevin Mayer, head of Disney's direct to consumer business on Thursday at a long-awaited investor day at the company's Burbank headquarters.
Disney's event day gave investors the first real glimpse into the company's streaming strategy, which is fueled by a cadre of powerful franchises like Marvel, "Star Wars," Pixar and "High School Musical. Wall Street and entertainment industry figures have been eager to learn more about Disney's secretive plans.
The Disney+ app is an attempt to compete with Netflix and others in the streaming arena as audiences increasingly turn to online services for their entertainment. Disney+ is part of Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger's broader strategy to adapt to changes in the media landscape, as people increasingly eschew traditional cable television packages and expect more films available in the home.
The investor day comes less than a month after Disney completed its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, including its movie and TV studios, cable networks including FX and FXX, international television properties and Fox's 30 percent ownership interest in Hulu, giving Disney 60 percent of the streaming service. The deal was largely driven by Iger's desire to own more intellectual property to compete with streamers that are spending billions each year on their own original content.
"This is an exciting time, and it is also a challenging time too," Iger said. "The combination of Fox and Disney will enable our 96-year-old company to thrive and to grow and to be even more relevant as we head into our second century."
The gathering of investors, analysts and journalists was held in a cavernous sound stage on the Disney lot that was converted into an auditorium. The stage was built in 1949 and used to shoot the original "Mary Poppins" and "Pirates of the Caribbean." "Star Wars" storm troopers greeted analysts and investors at the door. A giant screen featured a projection of sparkling plus signs resembling pixie dust.
Disney kicked off its presentation with sizzle reels, showing clips of Disney films, ABC news clips, and the building of Disney's theme parks, along with such Fox properties as "The Shape of Water" and "Avatar."
Mayer took audience through a virtual tour through its service, which is organized into five distinct brands that will have their own series and films on the app: Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and former Fox property National Geographic. Disney's content will be available for consumers to download onto their devices for offline use, Mayer said.
"We have worked extremely hard to make sure that our content shines through with an interface that is visually stunning," Mayer said. "We have the brands that matter, which is the single biggest differentiator for our service."
Disney's presentation took pains to showcase the company's impressive array of popular brands that will be funneled into the service. Disney+ will be the permanent home of animated films, including classics such as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Aladdin," "The Little Mermaid" and "Bambi," Pixar films, "Captain Marvel" and "Iron Man" are set to be available on the service, as is the "Star Wars" film saga. Also joining the app will be 250 hours of National Geographic content and a trove of Disney Channel programming.
In a major announcement, the company said the first 30 seasons of Fox's "The Simpsons" will be available on the service.
The heads of each of Walt Disney Studios' divisions gave spiels about what original material to expect from Disney+.
Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios, said the service will have a documentary series about the making of the upcoming film "Frozen II." Pete Docter, of Pixar Animation, said Bo Peep of the "Toy Story" franchise will get her own short film called "Lamp Life." The company is also making a series called "Forky Asks a Question," featuring a new character from "Toy Story 4."
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige teased original shows for the service including "WandaVision" and "Falcon and the Winter Soldier," featuring characters and actors from the Marvel feature films.
Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy brought Jon Favreau onstage to talk about the upcoming "Star Wars" series "The Mandalorian," about a bounty hunter five years after the events of "Return of the Jedi."
And Sean Bailey, who heads Disney's live action film production, touted a holiday comedy titled "Noelle," starring Anna Kendrick as the daughter of Santa Claus, and the studio's live retelling of "Lady and the Tramp." Bailey promised that the productions for the service would be "treated with the same love and care as our theatrical" pictures. Disney executives also gave presentations on Disney's existing direct-to-consumer businesses, including ESPN+ and Hulu. Mayer said Thursday that the company would "likely" allow subscribers to purchase Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu in a discounted bundle.
Mayer briefly touched on Disney's plans to expand its direct-to-consumer offerings throughout the world, including introducing ESPN+ in Latin America. He also said the company was looking to roll out Hulu internationally, but did not offer details. Hulu currently has 25 million subscribers in the U.S., making it one of the biggest players in the streaming market.
"There is still tremendous upside," said Hulu CEO Randy Freer.
Additionally, Disney highlighted Hotstar, an advertising-supported streaming service it acquired through its Fox purchase. Though few people outside India know about Hotstar, the platform has 300 million monthly users.
Hotstar, which will be Disney's fourth streaming service, already home to more than 100,000 hours of Indian dramas and the service provides Cricket matches in Indian languages, not just in English. Star executive Uday Shankar said that India is ripe for growth because the country has more than 600 million consumers below the age of 25 - the largest youth demographic in the world.
The confab has been seen as a potentially pivotal moment in the coming battle for streaming audiences. Netflix has 150 million subscribers and puts out a rich variety of prestigious original shows, such as "Russian Doll" and "Glow." But Disney's advantage is its deep library of family friendly movies and programming that kids are apt to watch repeatedly. Disney is also betting it can draw Marvel and Star Wars fans hungry for new lore in each series.
"While the direct to consumer space is growing, it's also becoming a more crowded space, where brands matter more than ever before," Mayer said.
Apple Inc. last month talked up its own programming slate at an event in Cupertino, featuring Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon. That showcase largely fell flat in Hollywood because of a lack of specifics and footage.
AT&T Inc.'s WarnerMedia, which owns "Game of Thrones" network HBO and film and TV studio Warner Bros., is also planning its own service for late this year.
During his remarks, Iger gave a shout out to the vision and creativity of the company's founder, Walt Disney, and added that current corporate leaders were building on the legacy with the acquisition of the Fox assets and the push into digital distribution.
"Borrowing from one of Walt's greatest strengths, it takes courage." Iger said.
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