Nation & World

Disney bets on new global streaming service Disney+

Ad-free subscription service to debut later in 2019

Getty Images/TNS

Disney CEO Bob Iger, seen with entertainment artist Donald Glover at the premiere of Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” says streaming is the company’s “No. 1 priority.”
Getty Images/TNS Disney CEO Bob Iger, seen with entertainment artist Donald Glover at the premiere of Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” says streaming is the company’s “No. 1 priority.”

BURBANK, Calif. — Walt Disney on Thursday unveiled details of a family-friendly streaming service with TV shows and movies from some of the world’s most popular entertainment franchises in a bid to challenge the digital dominance of Netflix.

The ad-free monthly subscription called Disney+ is set to launch later this year and in every major global market over time, the company said.

In addition to Disney films and TV shows, it will feature programing from the Marvel superhero universe, the “Star Wars” galaxy, “Toy Story” creator Pixar animation and the National Geographic channel.

Disney kicked off its presentation to Wall Street analysts at its Burbank, Calif., headquarters on Thursday with a video that demonstrated the breadth of its portfolio, showing clips from dozens of classic TV shows and movies from “Frozen” and “The Lion King” to “Avatar” and “The Sound of Music.”

Executives said they see opportunities to take its ESPN+ sport streaming video service to Latin America and are looking into international expansion of its Hulu streaming video business, which offers movies and shows targeted to adults.

The entertainment giant is trying to transform itself from a cable television powerhouse into a leader of streaming media.

CEO Bob Iger in February called streaming the company’s “No. 1 priority.”

Wall Street has pinned high hopes on the new service, which analysts expect would cost about $7.50 monthly and lure about 7.2 million U.S. subscribers in 2020 and 13.66 million by 2021, according to a poll of analysts conducted by Reuters.

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The digital push is Disney’s response to cord-cutting, the dropping of cable service that has hit its ESPN sports network and other channels, and the rise of Netflix.

The Silicon Valley upstart has amassed 139 million customers worldwide since it began streaming 12 years ago.

The Mouse House, as Disney is known, will join the market at a time when audiences are facing a host of choices, and monthly bills, for digital entertainment.

IPhone maker Apple, AT&T’s WarnerMedia and others plan new streaming services.

Disney has not yet announced a price for its new service.

To bolster its potential digital portfolio, Disney recently purchased film and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and gained prized properties such as “Avatar.”

In a January regulatory filing, Disney reported losses of more than $1 billion for streaming-related investments in Hulu and technology company BamTech.

Disney had been supplying new movies such as “Black Panther” and “Beauty and the Beast” to Netflix after their runs in theaters but ended that arrangement this year to feed its own streaming ambitions.

The company estimated it is foregoing $150 million in licensing revenue this fiscal year by saving programing for its own platforms.

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