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December 10, 2020 |

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Disney plans $16bn content spend, 350m subs target & raft of new originals

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Bob Chapek

The Walt Disney Company has announced plans to spend between $14-$16bn on content for its streamers, Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, by 2024, as it revealed it has already surpassed 137 million paid subscriptions across its DTC services.

Disney aims to increase this to 300-350 million subscribers by 2024 and has also set a target of 100+ new original titles per year for Disney+ alone, with a raft of new projects from its Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar brands in the works.

The news was revealed at the company’s 2020 Investor Day, with CFO Christine McCarthy saying that the level of investment “demonstrates our commitment to pivoting and accelerating our strategy.”

Disney added that it currently has 11.5 million ESPN+ subscribers and 38.8 million Hulu subscribers, while 86.8 million Disney+ subscribers have been secured since the streamer’s launch in November 2019. Its 2024 subscriber target is to be “driven primarily by a significant increase in content output.”

Christine McCarthy

Disney reveals more on Star

Disney also said that Star, the recently revealed international general entertainment streamer, would debut in Europe and some other international markets on 23 February next year.

It will also be included as part of Disney+ in some international markets and will launch as a separate OTT service in Latin America – where it will be known as Star+ – in June 2021.

The Star brand will serve as home to TV and movie content from Disney’s creative studios, including Disney Television Studios, FX, 20th Century Studios, 20th Television, as well as local programming from the regions where available.

In Europe, the service will be priced at €8.99 ($10.90) per month or €89.99 per year, with a similar pricing adjustment in the other Star launch markets, including Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The streaming service will continue its global rollout, beginning with Singapore, followed by Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea later in 2021.

Star+ in Latin America will be priced at $7.50 per month (or the local equivalent), or as part of a bundle with Disney+ for $9.00 per month.

The Mandalorian

Expanding the IP universe

As part of its expanding content plans, Disney+ is to release approximately 10 Star Wars series and 10 Marvel series, as well as 15 Disney live action, Disney Animation, and Pixar series, as well as 15 Disney live action, Disney Animation, and Pixar features over the next few years.

Among the new titles announced were two spin-offs from the hit Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian, titled Ahsoka (a live-action project which will see Rosario Dawson reprise her role as the fan favourite former Jedi) and Rangers Of The New Republic.

Other Star Wars titles announced included Lando, The Acolyte, A Droid Story and Star Wars: Visions, alongside the previously announced Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor and Star Wars: The Bad Batch.

On the Marvel front, the previously announced Samuel L Jackson-fronted series has been revealed to be an adaptation of the Secret Invasion comic event, while Ironheart and Armor Wars, which will see actor Don Cheadle reprise his movie role, were also unveiled.

A Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special is also being planned, as well as a series of original shorts titled I Am Groot, joining the currently expected Marvel TV line-up that includes Loki, Hawkeye and She-Hulk.

Disney Television Studios, meanwhile, is currently in production on four live action series set to debut on Disney+ in 2021 – The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, Big Shot, The Mysterious Benedict Society and Turner & Hooch, while National Geographic revealed a Disney+ slate that included projects Limitless With Chris Hemsworth and Welcome To Earth (working title) featuring actor Will Smith.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Content, content, content

Marking the first animated series produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios’, Disney also revealed several new series for Disney+ including Baymax,Zootopia+, Tiana and Moana, The Series, as well as Iwájú, which will be produced in collaboration with the Pan-African comic book entertainment company Kugali.

Also headed to Disney+ is Pixar’s first-ever long-form animated series Win Or Lose, which debuts exclusively on Disney+ in Fall 2023, while series including Dug Days, and Cars are also in the works.

FX, meanwhile, is developing the first TV series adaptation of the science-fiction horror feature Alien and is in advanced talks for a two-season order of The Stones, a drama series about rock ‘n roll band, The Rolling Stones, for Hulu and the newly announced Star.

FX has also ordered four additional seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, while the Kardashian Jenners will create new global content under a multi-year deal, to stream exclusively on Hulu in the US and internationally on Star, with an expected debut in late 2021.

“This incredible slate of new original content reflects our continuing commitment to harness the resources and immense creativity across our company to bring audiences extraordinary entertainment experiences unlike anything else in the market,” said Disney executive chairman Bob Iger.

“We’re proud that the unparalleled quality of our storytelling from our iconic brands remains evident across all distribution platforms, from movie theaters to our direct-to-consumer services.”

Recent restructure

All this activity for Disney’s streaming services comes just a week after it was revealed that a major round of lay-offs was underway at the company’s Television Group, with many high-level execs departing the company following the recent consolidation of its TV operations to focus on its streamers.

The cuts followed on the heels of the news that Disney’s Touchstone label is to be shuttered and Disney Television Studios will reduce to two teams, falling under the banners of ABC Signature and 20th Television.

As a result, a number of ABC veterans were reported to be among those exiting, including Vicki Dummer, the head of current series programming at ABC Entertainment.

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