It certainly has been a busy few months for Disney. The mega media conglomerate has seen some suitably magical highs on all fronts, but its recent achievements have been marred by media difficulties.
In the same week that welcomed a resounding box office triumph for Thor: Ragnarok, the studio was met with backlash and an eventual journalist boycott over its decision to ban Los Angeles Times’ film critics from future screenings, allegedly in response to the paper’s investigation of the local Disneyland’s business operations.
Now the same questions of success and failure swirl around the company’s latest high profile venture: a Disney streaming service. The announcement that the company will be removing its films from other providers has been met with a similarly mixed bag of responses, especially as streaming titan Netflix, the most dominant force of its kind, shows no signs of demise.
Undoubtedly, the company’s direct-to-consumer service will be received with open arms by a huge swathe Disney’s worldwide audience. In particular, families and children, but also those of us (read: me, myself, I) who are ready to throw on a pair of the iconic ears at a moment’s notice, having been enchanted by the compelling stories, unrivalled animation, and just a little bit of pixie dust since before we can remember.
“The mega-media conglomerate has seen some suitably magical highs on all fronts, but its recent achievements have been marred by media difficulties.”
The studio has already proven itself in providing strictly Disney content through its own network, Disney Channel, established 34 years ago and now paid for by approximately 93.9 million television households in the U.S. alone.
Still, it seems that if the studio is to make a damn good go of this enterprise in an industry already oversaturated with streaming platforms, it will have to match commercial power with some serious creative clout in order to draw in a new and, perhaps more importantly, consistent fan base away from competitors.
We have witnessed the rise and rise of the Netflix original, a growing list among which features the likes of worldwide hit Stranger Things, and spreads across a whole range of genres to include promisingly renewed shows such as Mindhunter and The Crown.
Meanwhile, Amazon has its Prime services to fall back on as a reason for paying customers not to switch their streaming providers. And after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. With convenient, familiar, reliable access to a popular selection of movies and shows, subscribers won’t feel the need to change what they already have, right?
“if the studio is to make a damn good go of this enterprise in an industry already oversaturated with streaming platforms, it will have to match commercial power with some serious creative clout”
Well, wrong. In their bid to challenge the powers of the streaming world, Disney has not only declared that it will be undercutting Netflix’s prices significantly, but the media giant backed up its reputation for fulfilling on fan favourites by announcing serialised High School Musical, Star Wars, Marvel, and Monsters, Inc. shows.
We have already had a taste of this kind of content on the Disney YouTube channel, and this further development appears to ensure that the new streaming service won’t just the home of nostalgia-inducing, sugary sweet childhood treasures (although if we’re being honest here, I would probably drain my bank account and hand my soul over to the Mouse with a smile on my face for something like that anyway).
Still, whether the original content will extend beyond the universes which Disney already owns, is yet to be revealed. The studio might struggle with the feeling that these franchises have been covered enough, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has already produced an incredible (unnecessary?) 17 films so far, set to continue into 2019.
And whilst I might be all ready to start worshipping at the altar of Mickey and friends, the move to a more individualised platform might be cause for Disney to diversify.
Disney’s powerfully exclusive platform will provide an unparalleled number of their blockbusters, not only from recent years but the historical classics too. The lower price point may also make Disney’s platform better value than its competitors for some users. But original programming by streaming services has evolved far beyond the supportive sideshow role it might have once played, in the event that a big studio pulled their films.
Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, is fresh from its storm of the Primetime Emmy Awards, winning 8 out of 13 nominations. Creative and story-focused streaming content has now clearly taken on a life of its own and has repeatedly sparked the hype and interest needed to keep viewers coming back.
If Disney is to convince a mass audience, spanning all ages, to switch their specific consumption habits, it may have to incorporate something outside of the usual big budget, franchise-driven, all-star cast wheelhouse which has previously enabled the company to continue reigning the silver screen.