Disney Direct to Consumer App Getting Marvel, Star Wars

The direct to consumer service that the Walt Disney Co. plans to launch in 2019 will be the home of Marvel and Star Wars films.

CEO Bob Iger, speaking at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor conference, had previously announced that Disney would buy the remaining stake of BAMTech to launch direct to consumer subscription products for the Disney and ESPN brands.

The Disney app will launch after Disney’s film output deal with Netflix ends. The disposition of the Star Wars and Marvel movie franchises has not been announced previously. Disney's movie studio will be creating films specifically for the app, he said.

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Disney will also be creating 4 or 5 original TV series for the app, he added.

“We’ll be launching hot,” Iger said. He noted that there are few media brands that could be the basis of a stand-along subscription product.

“There’s not only room for Disney, but a demand for Disney,” he said. “We’ll have the content to back that up.”

Iger said that cable networks like the Disney Channel will continue to exist on cable, but it will also be available on an authenticated basis through the new Disney OTT app. He added that current and new multichannel distributors will be able to distribute the app, and that some have already expressed an interested in doing so.

ESPN’s app, set to launch next year, will feature 10,000 live sporting events that don’t currently air on ESPN’s linear channels. Those events will include Major League Soccer and college sports.

ESPN will also have a single app. Authenticated viewers will continue to be able to stream ESPN linear programming. But users of the app will also be able to get the additional events and programming by paying an additional subscription fee.

ESPN, which has been suffering because of declining pay-TV subscribers and higher sports rights costs, is going through a renewal cycle, including negotiation with one MVPD now, Iger said. By the end of 2019, Iger said he expects to have new deals for about 50% of ESPN’s subscribers.

“We expect to drive value in those negotiations,” he said. With ESPN, Disney and ABC, we’re well positioned.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.