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Disney Shutters Linear Kids Networks in the UK, Shifts Distribution to Disney Plus

(Image credit: Disney)

In a landmark move that shifts distribution of content from linear pay TV to direct-to-consumer streaming, Disney announced that it will no longer distribute Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior in the UK. The media conglomerate will instead distribute movies and series targeted to those kids networks through its Disney Plus streaming service. 

“From October 1st,  Disney Plus will become the exclusive home for content from Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior in the UK,” Disney said in a statement. 

"The direct-to-consumer service, which garnered more than 54.5 million subscribers worldwide in its first seven months, will now premiere all the latest films, series and specials from the three Disney channels, along with offering a rich and expansive back catalogue of Disney Channel titles in the UK, including Mickey Mouse ClubhouseDescendants 3 and Phineas and Ferb," Disney said.

Also read: Disney Plus: Everything You Need to Know About the Service That Went From Zero to 28.6 Million Users in Less Than Three Months

Disney’s move comes after the conglomerate failed to reach carriage terms for its kids networks with the UK’s major pay TV operators, Liberty Global’s Virgin Media and Comcast’s Sky. 

It also comes after departure announcement of David Levine, Disney’s VP of kids programming in Europe and Africa. He’s ending his 16-year tenure at the end of June. 

A Sky rep reminded The Hollywood Reporter that the pay TV operator had already struck a distribution deal for Disney Plus, adding  "We have over 5,000 episodes of on demand content alongside our brilliant linear channels, from our partners Viacom and Turner, and we’re investing more in our own Sky kids originals, too, like Moominvalley and Morph. Kids can watch favorites like Peppa Pig and Paw PatrolSpongeBob Squarepants and The Amazing World of Gumball, all the wonderful LEGO content and much, much more. And it is all available in one place – together with the best apps, like Disney+ and Netflix – on [premium pay TV service] Sky Q.”

PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore told THR that Disney’s move represents "a landmark moment.

”The streaming revolution is gathering pace and cannot be ignored,” Pescatore added. “Companies can no longer continue to support a slew of channels and cannibalize revenue streams. The future is all about streaming and this latest move sets a benchmark for others to follow suit."