Disney+ debuts today and its original launch projects include “The Mandalorian.” It is a live action “Star Wars” show. It stars Pedro Pascal. It looks exciting.
You have probably read some variation of this paragraph a dozen times over the last few months.
This is pretty much how every article about the new content slate for Disney’s foray into the streaming business begins, and it’s not a coincidence. With all due respect to Forky fans, “Lady and the Tramp” diehards, and “High School Musical” aficionados, “The Mandalorian” is almost certainly the only original Disney+ project that a significant number of consumers will be amped up for in the coming weeks.
Despite only launching with one tentpole project, industry analysts have been plenty optimistic about Disney+’s odds of success in the crowded streaming business. Compare this to Apple TV+: Apple’s new streaming service launched with four key original titles, and although critics didn’t swoon for the likes of “The Morning Show” or “For All Mankind,” the platform nonetheless launched with more notable shows than its Disney competitor. Regardless, analysts’ outlook on Apple TV+ hasn’t been quite as favorable.
The key difference analysts have noted over the last few months has centered on each platform’s legacy content. As important as platform-defining originals are, streaming services can’t afford to put out a new “Russian Doll” or “Fleabag” every week. Legacy content plays an important role, which is why companies such as Netflix and WarnerMedia have shelled out hundreds of millions to nab just a few years’ rights to hit shows such as “Seinfeld” and “The Big Bang Theory.”
And Disney+ has knocked it out of the park with regards to legacy content. The “Star Wars,” Pixar and Marvel Cinematic Universe films have huge followings, and most of them are available on Disney+ at launch. Disney+ is also the streaming home for numerous other classic cartoons and Disney films, such as the original “The Lion King” and “Bambi.” When viewers have finished watching “The Mandalorian,” there will be countless hours of content to keep them engaged (and spending money to maintain their subscriptions).
Although the launch of HBO Max—which will boast an enormous catalogue of AT&T-owned content—is still quite a few months away, analysts have offered positive early impressions at least partially due to its similarly strong roster of legacy films and shows. By comparison, Apple TV+’s launch roster of older films and shows was quite limited.
This is the inflection point between the two: Apple TV+ is all new, Disney+ offers mostly old options. As good as “The Mandalorian” is shaping up to be, it’s the promise of streaming decades of Disney content that will draw viewers. Only when Disney+ begins releasing more original content in a few months, such as the smorgasbord of upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe shows, can it be called an unqualified success.