Disney, a partner of Netflix since 2012, has announced it will launch its own streaming service in 2019, when its current distribution deal with the streaming giant comes to an end. They also announced that an ESPN standalone service is due to arrive next year. And while they’re not going to beat their soon-to-be-jilted bedfellow at its own game, Disney is in a unique position to actually succeed where other a la carte programming will fail. And it could portend the much-hyped cord-cutting revolution.
(Quick caveat: The Disney service might not stream films from its subsidiaries Lucasfilm and Marvel. This shouldn’t affect our argument below, but FYI.)
Disney has threatened to do this for a while, and they might be the only network that manages to do it successfully. Why? With Disney and ESPN, the company essentially owns two verticals: kids' programs and sports. What are the two reasons most adults are hesitant to truly cut the cord? Kids' programs and sports.
If you have children, you WILL either get the Disney Channel via cable or you WILL buy the Disney streaming service. Big into sports? Hard to live without the Worldwide Leader, which finally seems to be flexing some creativity after diminishing returns and massive layoffs. Admittedly, we’re slightly less bullish on the ESPN model: To start, the sports streaming service will feature 10,000 hours of sports and include baseball and hockey, while other sports seem to be an add-on cost. It will not be a straightforward stream of all ESPN's programming.
To sum up:
Winners: Cord-cutters who like sports or kids stuff. Disney.
Losers: Cable companies, cable subscribers (your rates will rise no matter what), Hulu/Seeso/CBS All Access (look, we’re not gonna pay for a million streaming apps).
Remains to be seen: Netflix, which wants 50% of its own content to be original anyway, and just did its own unique deal with indie comics leader Millarworld (creators of Kingsman and Kick-Ass, though neither of those are part of the deal) in lieu of tying up their fate to Disney’s Marvel, who they can still work with.
They’ll be fine, $20 billion of debt aside.