When the Walt Disney Co. launched the Disney+ streamer in 2019, its main selling point was access to the company’s extensive library, with the entertainment giant making moves to keep their films and TV shows exclusive to the service. But the House of Mouse’s policy of keeping their content in-house might be shifting, according to a recent report from Bloomberg.
The report, published February 3, claims that Disney is exploring the possibility of licensing film and TV properties to rival media outlets, shifting from Disney’s current streaming strategy. The report says the idea has been discussed in private talks at Disney, and executives have started shopping certain titles to third parties. However, it also says these titles may end up sold to Hulu, in which Disney owns a majority stake, keeping them technically in Disney’s purview. More news of these plans is expected to come from CEO Bob Iger when the company’s earnings are reported on February 8.
Should the news be true, it comes after a rough end of 2022 for Disney, which saw the direct-to-consumer (or streaming) division report a loss of $1.5 billion in Q3. That news resulted in the board firing Bob Chapek as CEO, with Bob Iger returning to the post after retiring just two years before.
While Disney does license some titles to other platforms such as Prime Video, following the launch of Disney+, the company began to keep most of its content exclusive to the streamer and Hulu, letting expire a deal with Netflix for Marvel Studios films. Although this strategy resulted in quick growth for Disney+ — the streamer gained 10 million subscribers on its first day and has since grown a 164.2 million userbase worldwide — it also caused losses of billions in home video sales and licensing deals.
As the economy has slowed and hit a recession, multiple companies are divesting from streaming and focusing on selling more content to third parties. The most prominent example is Warner Bros. Discovery, which has begun taking shows like “Westworld” and “F-Boy Island” off the HBO Max streamer in favor of putting them on Roku and Tubi. The change has accompanied a general shift in Wall Street priorities, with pure profit becoming more favored compared to streaming subscriber growth.
Like Warner Bros. Discovery, Disney is also reportedly deemphasizing streaming as a release model for films after spending the pandemic putting blockbusters like “Black Widow” and animated films like “Turning Red” straight to Disney+. The Bloomberg report claims that Iger has committed to a three-year schedule of films that will premiere in theaters.
Since Iger has reclaimed the reins of Disney, the CEOS has taken steps to reverse many of Chapek’s decisions, including lowering the prices of theme park tickets and restructuring the company to give creative executives more decision-making power. The reorganization has already caused some executives — including Chapek’s top lieutenant Kareem Daniel — to leave the company, which has initiated a hiring freeze in response to the economic downturn.
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