Disney calls it the future of the company: Disney Plus. It’s the entertainment giant’s upcoming streaming service for almost everything it creates. It’ll be the exclusive home for streaming the company’s blockbuster Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar movies — Avengers: Endgame, for example, will be available to stream on Dec. 11. In addition, Disney is ramping up a slate of original shows and movies based on those brands and others.
This week, Disney is opening up discounted online preorders for Disney Plus — if you pay upfront for a three-year subscription. A “Founders Circle” offer cuts $23 off the annual price if you commit to three years. That works out to be $140.97 total, or the equivalent of $3.92 a month. The offer was first available over the weekend to people who attended Disney’s biennial fan convention, the D23 Expo. But Monday, Disney opened up the same offer online to anyone who is a member of its D23 fan club, which anyone can join free. The Founders Circle deal ends Sept. 2 and is available only to US residents.
The D23 Expo was also the site of Disney Plus’ coming-out party. The company put on a parade of trailers, talent and news at a packed event. It revealed plans for six new original series for the streaming service including a Star Wars Obi-Wan Kenobi series with Ewan McGregor reprising his role and three new live-action Marvel shows based on the characters Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and She-Hulk. Trailers dropped for the live-action, big-budget Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian and a slew of other shows and movies that’ll be on the service when it launches.
And the company started to talk about more features of the service itself. Disney Plus is going to eschew pricing tiers, giving all subscribers access to four simultaneous streams and 4K and HDR high-quality video. It’ll also allow you to create seven profiles, so personalization can suit different members of the household. And even though Disney Plus is the company’s answer to Netflix, it won’t be releasing episodes of its original series all at once like its giant rival does — new episodes will come out weekly.
Like The Mandalorian, much of the service’s original programming leans into the company’s big-budget franchises. Its Marvel original shows, for example, are going to be closely knitted into the storylines that play out on the big screen in theaters.
(CNET has a comprehensive list of all Disney Plus titles confirmed for the streaming service.)
Still, Disney’s biggest surprise about the new streaming service has been the price: Disney Plus alone will cost $7 a month in the US, half the price of HBO Now and a big discount compared with Netflix. And Disney is cutting the price even lower for its super fans. D23 attendees and club members are getting the first shot at signing up early for Disney Plus and unlocking a discount that prices the service at $3.92 a month — if they agree to a three-year commitment. (More details on that below.)
So is the Disney Plus streaming service worth paying for? The details that we know so far are below, but basically: If you love Star Wars or Marvel movies or you have kids, you may find yourself considering yet another subscription before the year’s out.
What’s the Disney streaming service?
The Disney Plus streaming service will be a competitor to video streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Apple TV Plus. It’s a paid subscription without any advertising, and it gives customers access to a vast library of Disney’s and Fox’s legacy content as well as new, exclusive TV shows, movies, documentaries and shorts.
Disney’s other streaming services — Hulu and sports-focused ESPN Plus — will run on the same tech platform, so you can subscribe to them with the same password and credit card info. Disney plans for all three to be individual subscriptions, but when Disney Plus launches in the US, it’ll offer a triple-service bundle for $13 a month.
FX Plus, however, didn’t fit into the equation — the service shut down Aug. 21. FX Plus was a $6-a-month add-on subscription for Comcast and Cox cable subscribers that removed ads from current and past seasons of FX programming like Atlanta, American Horror Story and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It became part of Disney when the company bought Fox for $71.3 billion. But with Hulu as Disney’s designated spot for adult-oriented programming, FX Plus is a casualty of the merger.
FX as a network will cross-pollinate with Hulu, though. Disney CEO Bob Iger said in August that the company is interested in premiering FX programs on Hulu initially but later moving them over to the traditional FX channel.
Disney Plus will include all of Disney’s family-friendly content and much of its mass-audience fare — basically, anything made for audiences up to a PG-13 rating. It’ll have content from Disney proper, Marvel, Lucasfilm (so, Star Wars), Pixar and National Geographic. And outside those traditional categories it’ll also offer all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, a new feather in its cap from the Fox takeover.
Hulu, on the other hand, will be where Disney streams more adult-oriented material. For example, Hulu will stream a new Marvel animated series for grown-ups, and it’s where content like Deadpool will stream now that Disney owns Fox. Hulu will continue to stream content from three of the broadcast networks, as well as its own original series, like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock. (ESPN Plus will, clearly, focus on sports.)
And Disney now has full control over Hulu’s direction. Hulu was jointly owned by four parent companies as recently as March. But in May, Disney said it would buy the rest of Hulu it didn’t already own. That gives Disney the flexibility to offer its bundle discount.
When’s the release date?
Disney Plus will launch Nov. 12 in the US, Canada and the Netherlands. It’ll launch a week later, on Nov. 19, in Australia and New Zealand.
The timing is strategically smart. For one, Disney Plus can piggyback on the marketing for all of Disney’s big-budget films being released for the holiday season — Frozen 2 is scheduled to hit theaters Nov. 22 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is set for release on Dec. 20.
And Netflix has also shown that the last couple of months of the year are when it tends to get some of its biggest viewership. Bird Box, which Netflix says was watched by more than 80 million accounts in its first month of release, came out Dec. 21. Bright, its fantasy crime flick starring Will Smith, was the company’s most-viewed film before Bird Box. It was released Dec. 13.
Globally, Disney plans a progressive rollout worldwide over two years. The company provided a generalized timeline for when it’ll expand the service to the world’s major regions.
Disney Plus is slated to roll out in:
- Western Europe over the course of six months between October this year and March of next year.
- Eastern Europe over the course of a year starting as early as October 2020.
- Latin America over the course of three months starting as early as October 2020.
- Asia Pacific over the course of two years starting as early as October this year.
(Read: Disney Plus en español.)
Kevin Mayer, the Disney executive in charge of the division launching Disney Plus, declined to specify any other international launch dates in August. But he told a group of international press that he believes people “will be happy” with how quickly Disney rolls out the service to international markets.
The very first people given the chance to preregister for Disney Plus will be attendees of D23, Disney’s biennial fan convention in Anaheim, California, Aug. 23-25.
How much will it cost?
In the US, Disney said the service will cost $7 a month, or $70 a year. Its price undercuts the $13 monthly fee for Netflix’s most popular plan in the US, which lets you stream to two different devices simultaneously in high definition. But Disney Plus will allow all subscribers to stream to four devices and access 4K content at no extra cost — features Netflix includes in its $16 premium tier.
Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine M. McCarthy hinted Disney Plus pricing may rise as the service advances, calling the $7-a-month fee an “initial” price. The company also said it’ll bundle Disney Plus with Hulu (with ads) and ESPN Plus, offering a $5 discount if you subscribe to all three of its streaming options. At $13, that costs the same as Netflix’s most popular plan in the US.
Way back in 2017, Iger noted that the price would reflect the “fact that it will have substantially less volume” than prime competitor Netflix. As the months and years pass, Disney will accumulate a bigger catalog of exclusives and originals on Disney Plus. As that happens, it’s a good bet the company will start pushing its price higher.
In advance of launching, Disney is offering a discount to D23 fan-club members and people attending its D23 conference. A “Founders Circle” offer prices a three-year subscription at $140.97 total, or the equivalent of $3.92 a month. The offer lasts until Sept. 2, and it’s only available to people who are US residents.
In Canada, Disney Plus will be priced at 9 Canadian dollars a month, or C$90 per year. In the Netherlands, it’ll be 7 euros per month, or €70 per year. In Australia, it’ll be priced at 9 Australian dollars a month, or AUS$90 per year. And New Zealand subscribers will pay 10 New Zealand dollars per month, or NZ$100 per year.
How can I stream it?
Disney promised wide device support, saying Disney Plus will support streaming to phones, tablets, computers, connected TVs and streaming media boxes. At its big unveiling in April, Disney specifically called out support for Roku TVs and the Playstation 4. In August, the company said it also had global distribution agreements in place with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku and Sony. That encompasses the makers of:
- Roku’s boxes, sticks and TVs.
- Apple TV, iPhone and iPad.
- Phones and TVs running on Android operating systems, as well as Chromecast streamers.
- Xbox One.
- PlayStation 4.
During the investor presentation in April, slides included photos of Amazon Fire TV, but the company hasn’t specifically confirmed Amazon’s devices or whether Disney Plus will be an option on Amazon Channels. But executives have said that they intend for Disney Plus to be supported by all major devices that stream video.
Disney Plus will be able to stream 4K and HDR content, but it hasn’t specified which titles or how many titles. Every Disney Plus account will be allowed to stream to four devices simultaneously and can create seven user profiles for different members of the household.
Disney Plus will also offer downloads for offline viewing.
Shows and movies: What will I be able to watch?
Disney Plus will include content from the Disney brand itself, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic. It’ll also integrate programming from Fox — all 30 seasons of The Simpsons will be on Disney Plus starting on day one, and more titles, like The Sound of Music, The Princess Bride and Malcolm in the Middle, will join it in the first year. In August, Disney said that it’ll go further than that, “reimagining” past Fox franchises “for a new generation” — Iger indicated a reboot of Home Alone is in the works, for one.
Disney Plus will be the only place you can stream all of Disney’s theatrically released movies, starting with Captain Marvel at launch and the rest of its 2019 slate later on. Frozen 2, for example, will be streamable on the service next summer after its theatrical release in November. Disney Plus will also house the entire film libraries of Pixar, Star Wars and its Signature Series and Disney Vault lines of classic hand-drawn animated movies. (Think Bambi, The Lion King, Snow White and so on.)
And of course, the company is developing a big slate of original, exclusive shows and movies for the service.
Major originals include The Mandalorian, a big-budget series starring Pedro Pascal about a bounty-hunting gunfighter that takes place five years after the events in The Return of the Jedi. Disney is investing heavily in The Mandalorian. Its budget reportedly approached $15 million per episode — by comparison, Game of Thrones didn’t hit that kind of spending until its final season. And even though The Mandalorian won’t premiere until Nov. 12, executive producer Jon Favreau is already writing its second season.
A Star Wars prequel series based on Rogue One will star Diego Luna, who played Cassian Andor in the original movie.
And Disney has seven live-action series featuring the stars of its blockbuster Avengers movies in their own shows.
The first wave includes: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan in fall 2020; a Loki series featuring Tom Hiddleston in spring 2021; WandaVision with Elizabeth Olsen in her role of Scarlet Witch and Paul Bettany reprising The Vision in spring 2021; and a Hawkeye series in fall 2021, starring Jeremy Renner and featuring Kate Bishop, who in the comics becomes a second Hawkeye.
Then in August, the company unveiled three more, based on characters She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight. In the comics, She-Hulk, or Jennifer Walters, is the cousin of Bruce Banner, whose superhuman powers transferred to her when she received a transfusion of Banner’s blood. Ms. Marvel, or Kamala Khan, is a teen protege of Captain Marvel’s Carol Danvers and is Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own comic book. The character Moon Knight, or Marc Spector, is a former mercenary and CIA agent who has multiple personalities and is imbued with powers from an Egyptian god.
At Comic Con in July, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige detailed how the studio’s Disney Plus shows are designed to be essential viewing for Marvel fans. The characters and narratives of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be knitted together between theatrical movies and original series on Disney Plus.
Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, will be joined by Scarlet Witch actress Elizabeth Olsen in May 2021’s theatrical sequel Doctor Strange: In The Multiverse of Madness — but to understand how Olsen’s character arrived at the events on the big screen, you’ll need to watch the Disney Plus original Wandavision, slated to come out around the same time.
On the flip side, Avengers: Infinity War contains a clue to how Loki returns from his death in the Phase 3 finale to appear in the Disney Plus original Loki, set for spring 2021 too.
Disney Plus also will have original documentaries, reality shows, competition series, behind-the-scenes features, nature and adventure titles, animated programming — the list goes on. It may also be the place Disney premieres live-action short films that it’s creating in its Launchpad incubator program designed to elevate opportunities for filmmakers from underrepresented groups.
Even though all of Disney’s movies will stream exclusively on Disney Plus, the company doesn’t plan to debut any of its big-budget motion pictures on the service. That’s what’s known as a day-and-date approach, to release titles on the big screens and on a streaming service at the same time. It was Netflix’s strategy for years. Disney, however, plans for all its theatrical films like Star Wars and Marvel to run their course in theaters and home video before making them available with a digital subscription.
CNET also has a comprehensive list of all the shows and movies expected on Disney Plus.
How will this affect Disney stuff on Netflix?
Disney will mostly disappear from Netflix by late 2019 (with a caveat).
Since 2016, Netflix has been the first place to watch Disney’s movies with a subscription. That deal meant Netflix was the go-to place for the biggest US blockbusters of the last three years. The top two movies of 2017 and the top three movies of 2016 and 2018 were all from Disney, and Netflix has been the place to binge them all.
But Disney decided against renewing that Netflix deal as it plotted its own competitor. Starting with Disney’s 2019 slate of movies, all those films are destined for Disney Plus. That means Captain Marvel, the first movie Disney released theatrically in 2019, will be the first movie on Disney Plus instead of Netflix. It also means that Mary Poppins Returns should be the final Disney movie that will have some type of release window on Netflix.
But licensing is complicated, and one report indicates Disney will return those movies to Netflix — and remove them from Disney Plus — temporarily starting in 2026. It affects movies released between January 2016 and December 2018, which includes Marvel titles like Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnorak, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War; Star Wars hits like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Last Jedi; and Pixar staples like Finding Dory, Coco and The Incredibles 2. It also touches family favorites like Moana and the live action Beauty and the Beast.
One consideration: Disney Plus won’t lose these titles until six years after the service launches. At that point, Disney Plus will have built a large permanent library of original content, and it will continue to funnel all its newest releases to Disney Plus and nowhere else. Presumably, that will take some of the sting out of losing these films for a limited time.
Netflix’s Marvel Defenders shows are complicated too. Netflix has put out five original series based on Defenders characters in partnership with Disney. In 2018, Netflix canceled three of them: Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Then in 2019, Netflix canceled the last two: The Punisher and Jessica Jones. Kevin Mayer, the Disney executive in charge of Disney Plus, has said Disney Plus could possibly revive the canceled shows. But the terms of their original deal could restrict Disney Plus from any revivals until 2020, according to a report.
With the third, and now final, season of Jessica Jones having hit Netflix in June, all we know about the future of these characters is Marvel Television chief Jeph Loeb teasing fans that the characters will continue in some form.
What shows and movies do you want to appear on Disney’s streaming service? Pop them into the comments section and we’ll keep updating this post with more information as it becomes available.
Originally published Aug. 27, 2018, and updated as new information is revealed.
Join To Our Newsletter
You are welcome