Once Disney announced its split from Netflix and the acquisition of a majority of a leading company of direct-to-consumer technology, a series of questions began to emerge both from analysts and insiders. All of those questions could be summed up in one: Is Disney consciously accelerating the ongoing process of content creators to build solo streaming services?
According to the press release, they are, but they also don’t have a blueprint that covers all the details or provides a specific timetable.
“This acquisition and the launch of our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the company,” said Disney’s CEO Robert A. Iger. “One that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands.”
Although they mention specificly that the ESPN streaming service will be available through an “enhanced version of the current ESPN app,” they don’t outline possible conflicts like availability through services such as Apple TV, Amazon, or bundle packs of their others brands.
Disney has enough muscle in the content creation industry to foster and accelerate the changes taking place between cable distribution and streaming services. Discovery Communications Inc. was already working in its own streaming services, but they are taking special caution not to alarm their still-stable core cable business. Fox and NBC are also already taking steps toward that end, but are building it as an over-the-top set service instead of a competition with declining cable services.
“Now that Disney has given a timeline for both sports and entertainment streaming services, other networks may accelerate their own plans,” wrote journalist Jared Newman on TechHive.
Its role as an industry juggernaut is why Disney’s move is important for the future of both cable and streaming services.
With the announcement of its upcoming branded services for Disney and ESPN, and the acquisition of BamTech to make that possible, something pass unnoticed for many: namely that Netflix has acquired Millarworld, the publisher of stories such as Kick Ass, Kingsman, and other cutting edge comics. Netflic stated, “The acquisition, the first ever by Netflix, is a natural progression in the company’s effort to work directly with prolific and skilled creators and to acquire intellectual property.”
Netflix has evolve gradually, but steadily, from a services provider to a network and a studio in its own right, much as HBO did in the cable-driven era. These two moves highlight the fact that content distributed on direct-to-consumer platforms has become more important today.
By controlling the distribution of their content, The Walt Disney Company has initiated a process that will force subscribers to decide which services are better suited for them, fostering competition but also driving the industry toward uncharted territory dragging cable companies along for the ride.
Or, as Kevin Lincoln put it recently on Vulture: “consumers might need to start making some hard decisions about which providers they’re really willing to pay for, in a way they never had to in the days of all-inclusive cable packages.”