Disney Plus, Cable Minus: Analysts say streaming service may escalate cord cutting

The Walt Disney Company is swooping into the Canadian market with its powerful new streaming platform Disney Plus in November, and analysts say the menu of Marvel superheroes, Pixar characters, and Disney animated classics could give viewers another reason to drop cable altogether.

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The logo for The Walt Disney Company appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Richard Drew

TORONTO — The Walt Disney Company is swooping into the Canadian market with its powerful new streaming platform Disney Plus in November, and analysts say the menu of Marvel superheroes, Pixar characters, and Disney animated classics could give viewers another reason to drop cable altogether.

The company says Disney Plus will cost $8.99 per month, or $89.99 per year, when the service launches on Nov. 12.

Even though the platform will not launch here as a bundle deal — in the United States, the service will be packaged at a discount with Hulu and ESPN — there’s still plenty of programming that could entice Canadian households, in particular families with kids.

“It just makes the household less dependent on cable-delivered video,” said Kaan Yigit, a technology analyst at Solutions Research Group.

“Some of those households will look to shave the cord — or cut the cord for that matter — over and above the intentions they might’ve had prior to Disney.”

While the Canadian streaming video market has been competitive for years, with Netflix as the dominant player and Bell Media’s Crave and Amazon Prime Video also in the mix, the arrival of Disney will be unprecedented.

The company owns the rights to Star Wars, as well as many TV shows on U.S. network ABC, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Lost.” Disney also recently purchased rival Hollywood studio Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., giving them access to decades of film and TV, including action hits like “Die Hard,” and classics such as “The Sound of Music.”

The initial slate of titles that’ll launch on Disney Plus in Canada hasn’t been announced, but the company has teased some of the projects that are in the works. Among programming exclusively launching on the platform is an update to the “Home Alone” and “Night at the Museum” franchises, as well as a remake of “Lady and the Tramp.”

Disney is banking on its appeal out of the gate, with Disney Plus launching across nearly all major mobile and connected TV devices. That’ll give viewers an opportunity to sign up whether they use Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku or Sony products.

Brahm Eiley, president of consultancy firm Convergence Research, says many questions linger about how Disney Plus will look in Canada. In particular, he wonders if viewers will feel the service’s programming slate pales in comparison to the U.S.

It’s a criticism that hindered Netflix for years after it launched in Canada.

Representatives for Disney declined to answer questions about whether its Canadian Disney Plus service will mirror its American platform.

For viewers, figuring out which Disney shows are available on the Disney Plus platform could prove complicated.

For instance, Disney has a broadcasting deal with Toronto-based media company Corus Entertainment, which operates the Disney Channel and several other family channels that carry the company’s new shows.

Corus representative Ashley Applebaum said the “strong partnership” between the two companies hasn’t changed for Disney programming made for broadcast television.

“Corus will continue to exclusively offer first-run premieres of the newest series, specials and Disney movies on Disney Channel, Disney JR and Disney XD in Canada, airing day and date with the U.S.,” she said in an emailed statement.

Eiley suggests that’ll put the onus on viewers to do their own homework and figure out which shows are on which platform.

“Consumers are going to have to be more savvy in terms of what they’re actually getting,” he says.

 

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David Friend, The Canadian Press


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