February 21, 2020

Disney+ And the Problem of Streaming

“Investors, allow yourselves to be enchanted by Disney’s magic, swept away in its magnificent story lines – and try not to be concerned with the usual financial complexities.

That was the theme of Walt Disney Co.’s presentation to shareholders on Thursday, as it revealed the product at the center of the 96-year-old company’s future: Disney+. The video-streaming service will launch Nov. 12, but it won’t begin making any money until 2024. That’s long after CEO Bob Iger, the leader of this new Disney mission, will have retired. Just as the company’s Pixar animations and Marvel superhero films require a suspension of disbelief, so too, to some degree, does the notion that the best path forward for Disney – a force of the movie theater box office and marquee member of the traditional cable bundle – is to be distilled into a $6.99-a-month app.

In all the build-up to the unveiling of this product, what may have gotten lost is that this isn’t really about the app – it’s about the content, and it’s actually the same content for which Disney is already known and loved. While streaming chief Kevin Mayer described Disney+ as unique and “visually stunning,” the app itself is rather unremarkable, with a look and feel similar to Amazon’s and other video services. (That’s not a bad thing, considering consumers are used to the functionality.) Instead, Thursday’s event served mainly as a reminder of Disney’s unrivaled creativity and the breadth of its library, which was expanded last month with the addition of National Geographic, TV shows like “The Simpsons” and other assets from its $85 billion Fox deal”

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