Feb 23, 2021
Why Star Is Disney’s Next Big Salvo in Its Streaming War With Netflix
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When Disney launched streamer Disney+ in November 2019, it leaned on the global recognition of Luke Skywalker, Iron Man, Moana and Buzz Lightyear to great effect.The service attracted 95 million subscribers in a little more than a year. Soon, Disney will find out what happens when characters like Olivia Pope, Betty Suarez and Jack Bauer crash its streaming party.
On Feb. 23, Disney began adding programming that skews more adult to Disney+ in such markets as Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand under the new streaming brand Star. The entertainment giant’s plan to feature Star as a content hub within Disney+ alongside Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar and National Geographic is designed to help fuel sign-ups overseas, but it also stands to create confusion for the family-friendly Disney+ brand.
“Everybody knows Marvel and Star Wars and Pixar, but Star is kind of a nebulous general entertainment thing, so it’s much harder to have an obvious value proposition for people,” says Cowen media and entertainment analyst Doug Creutz. “I don’t know that having Star will incentivize somebody who wouldn’t have bought Disney+ by itself to then go buy Disney+.”
Adding to the challenge, Disney plans to increase the price of Disney+ to 8.99 in Europe and to 7.99 pounds in the U.K. (both equate to about $11) regardless of whether a subscriber intends to watch the new Star programming, which will come from Disney-owned ABC Signature, 20th Television, FX Productions and 20th Century Studios.
By offering Star programming within the Disney+ universe in many markets, Disney is turning the service into a more direct competitor to Netflix, which — with hundreds of new releases each year — promises to have something for everyone. Already, Disney is quickly catching up to Netflix, which required nearly a decade to amass a streaming subscriber base the size of the one Disney+ has today.
Disney also has taken a page from Netflix’s playbook by investing in local content. On Feb. 16, the conglomerate unveiled 10 European original series, spanning the drama, comedy and documentary genres, including a four-part French miniseries about the death of a young student in 1986 and an Italian Mafia series told from a female perspective. Disney+ plans to commission at least 50 European originals by 2024.
“Like a supercharged Netflix, they are following the same global strategy but are rolling it out at a much faster speed,” says Guy Bisson of U.K.-based Ampere Analysis. “Netflix already has all its subscriber growth — and 62 percent of its commissioned originals — coming from outside the U.S.”
Though Netflix continues to grow at a rapid clip, surpassing 200 million subscribers at the end of 2020, analyst firm Digital TV Research estimates that Disney+ will surpass the streaming pioneer in paid members in the next five years. (Disney believes it will have between 230 million and 260 million paid subs by the end of fiscal 2024.)
Disney has shied away from blending family-friendly programming with more adult fare in the U.S., where it operates Disney+ as a separate service from general-interest streamer Hulu. But Jan Koeppen, president of Disney in Europe, Middle East and Africa, says a survey of subscribers showed that they actually wanted a broader content offering within the app. “They all said, ‘We love choice.’ And the adults among them had a term that they often used: ‘We would love to have even more choice’ for what they call ‘me time,’ the time when the kids have gone to bed,” Koeppen explained during a Feb. 17 press conference.
To account for the broad range of viewers who might be accessing a household’s Disney+ account, the company has strengthened its parental controls and will allow people to filter content based on age-specific content ratings.
Bisson of Ampere sees a parallel between Disney’s global approach of combining Disney+ and Star and its U.S. strategy of bundling its various offerings — Disney+, Hulu and ESPN — into a single discounted monthly transaction. Bisson has labeled the strategy “compounding” and expects other studio-backed streamers — WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, ViacomCBS’ Paramount+ and NBCUniversal’s Peacock — to copy it as they roll out worldwide. “It’s essentially reinventing the wheel,” he says, “doing with streaming what pay TV and cable has done — bundling channels and services into a single discounted package.”
Peter Csathy, chair of advisory firm CreaTV Media, expects the launch of Star to mark only “the beginning of Disney’s expansion of its subscription streaming Disney+ service,” saying: “Ultimately, Disney+ will be the hub of much more than video. It will be the home of all things Disney and offer different tiers of service that offer diverse benefits, including early admission to theme parks, ongoing specialized Disney merchandise and more.”
Disney had considered introducing Hulu as its mass-market service worldwide but concluded that the U.S.-based platform “has no brand awareness outside the U.S.,” per CEO Bob Chapek. Star, meanwhile, takes its name from Star India, the media giant Disney acquired in its Fox deal that operates the popular Hotstar streaming brand in India and parts of Asia. (India’s Disney+ Hotstar brand comprises about 30 percent of Disney+’s global subscriber base.)
But launching Star will prove more complicated than the rollout of Disney+. Star won’t be offered in the U.S., for instance, because Hulu already serves a similar role. Meanwhile, in Latin America, the service will be offered as a stand-alone streamer called Star+ and will include live sports. “They’re trying to fit the product to the market as best they can,” says Creutz, “and it’s definitely not one-size-fits-all.”
Georg Szalai contributed to this report.
This story appeared in the Feb. 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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Wanda just got a badass new Scarlet Witch costume in 'WandaVision' and fans are 'obsessed'
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff. Disney Plus
- In the series finale of "WandaVision," Wanda got a badass new Scarlet Witch costume.
- SPOILERS: While fighting Agatha Harkness, Wanda absorbs power and emerges in her new look.
- The costume is her best look yet and fans can't wait until we see it again in "Doctor Strange 2."
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
In last week's eighth episode of "WandaVision," Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda Maximoff was referred to as Scarlet Witch for the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now, in the season finale of the Disney Plus show, she's just been given a brand new, badass costume.
WARNING: spoilers ahead.
In the ninth and final episode, appropriately titled "The Season Finale," Wanda faces off against Agatha Harkness in a battle over Westview. During the fight, in which Agatha tries to steal Wanda's powers, a red crown appears over Wanda's forehead — teasing a look much closer to the comic book look of the Scarlet Witch.Wanda gets a red crown in "WandaVision." Disney Platform Distribution
Then, when Agatha and Wanda do battle over the skies, Wanda gets a little more than a sparkly red crown. Wanda tricks Agatha with the same runes that Agatha used in episode eight — stopping any other witch from using magic in that space. Agatha is then rendered powerless and Wanda overcomes her, sucking back all of her own power from the witch.
As she does, she transforms into the coolest version of Scarlet Witch we have seen yet — decked out in full costume to match the crown.Fans love Wanda's new Scarlet Witch costume. Disney Platform Distribution Elizabeth Olsen in the new Scarlet Witch outfit. Disney Platform Distribution Fans have seen Wanda go from Wanda Maximoff to the all-powerful Scarlet Witch. Disney Platform Distribution
While fans were disappointed with other aspects of the finale, they were overjoyed to see Wanda in all her glory.—carmilla (@tintinruble) March 5, 2021—yesha (@spid3ystark) March 5, 2021—Want2View (@Want2View) March 5, 2021—camille :) (@camillecaIderon) March 5, 2021
One fan, in particular, noted that we have now seen Wanda grow from an insecure young woman to an all-powerful force to be reckoned with in one of the best character developments in the MCU.—mina • wandavision era (@ballerinatasha) March 5, 2021
Another fan can't wait until we next see Wanda, which may not be until 2022 when she appears in "Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness."
"The new Scarlet Witch costume is absolutely stunning and I can't wait to stare at how pretty Wanda is in 'Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness.'"—kels • wandavision spoilers (@langindustry) March 5, 2021
Wanda will be appearing in that movie as it ties directly into the events of "WandaVision," so expect many of your unanswered questions to be solved in that movie.
Meanwhile, another fan appreciated the sophistication of the costume design, writing: "Let's talk about how perfect scarlet Witch's costume is, it looks like the one in the comics without over-sexualising it, he. Color is perfect and certainly looks beautiful."—MÍA ♡||WANDA MAXIMOFF || ᱬ (@briemelissastan) March 5, 2021
We were teased with a brand new Scarlet Witch costume in earlier released concept art for, but it's still good to see that potential hit maximum with this cool new look for one of Marvel's most interesting characters.—Cam | agatha apologist (@planetcameron) March 5, 2021