If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the world that has access to the Disney Plus service and you’ve been enjoying it, spare a thought for your fellow Disney fans in the United Kingdom. The UK is one of the biggest hotspots for the love of Disney anywhere in the world outside the US, and yet they’ve been kept waiting a long time to gain access to the entertainment mega-corporation’s archives. That long wait is finally coming to an end, though, and the timing could scarcely be better.
Team sports are out of the question while social distancing is happening. If you were looking forward to a new movie or television show that was in the process of being made, you’ll have to stop doing so for now. Almost every major TV and movie studio you can think of has gone into temporary shutdown. The best shows and films from the past are all you have to distract yourselves with at the moment – and Disney has a better archive than most.
For those of you who have somehow managed to miss the long hype period and subsequent launch of Disney’s over-the-top streaming service, here’s the easiest way to explain it. Think about an online slots website, and what such a site is used for. The main reason that people frequently prefer to use online slots website instead of real casinos is that they gather hundreds of casino games and online slots in a single place, accessible with just one username and one password. That’s how Disney has decided to offer people their back catalog. The comparison is a little ironic because Disney actually used to have a range of online slots based on their characters until they withdrew them a little over eighteen months ago, but it’s also apt. Disney fans no longer have to go hunting for DVDs or signing up for multiple streaming services so they can watch everything the company has ever created. It’s all under one roof, and as of March 24th, it’s available for the first time in the United Kingdom.
While we say that Disney Plus will offer Disney’s entire back catalog, that isn’t actually the case. Although Disney claims that the service represents every piece of presentable work they’ve ever done, there’s one very glaring omission in the shape of ‘Song of the South,’ the film you’ve almost certainly never seen but will know from its catchy song ‘Zip a Dee Doo Dah.’ The movie, released in 1946, was deemed controversial even at the time it was made because of its cheery depiction of African American workers living happily on plantations owned by their masters, and making light of the practice and consequences of slavery in the American Deep South. The film has never had a home release of any kind, and Disney has taken the decision to omit it from their streaming output. As a result, it’s probably safe to say that the highly controversial film will never be seen again by anyone outside of Disney’s offices.
While ‘Song of the South’ might be missing, there’s more than enough content available to suggest that fans will get their money’s worth from their monthly subscription payment – and they won’t just be paying for content made by Disney. The company now owns the rights to long-tenured animation classic ‘The Simpsons,’ and every episode from the first twenty-nine seasons of the show will be available on the new platform. They join all of the company’s Pixar movies, all of the Disney Marvel films, and original and exclusive content including a live-action version of ‘Lady of the Tramp,’ sci-fi hit and ‘Star Wars’ spin-off ‘The Mandalorian,’ and all of the ‘High School Musical’ films.
Eventually, Disney will stream all of its content in glorious 4K, but they’re holding off from doing so at the moment. Because of the expected high demand, Disney is limiting their streaming quality to HD resolution at best. That isn’t ideal if you’ve paid for a 4K television and want to make the best of your investment, but it’s the only way the company can ensure that they’re able to cater to as many people as possible at present without buffering, lag, or denial-of-service issues. As soon as the current global crisis has been resolved, 4K will be available for the same price as the rest of the service. In the UK, that price is £5.99 – making them cheaper than Amazon Prime and putting them on level pegging with Netflix.
The reason that it’s taken Disney so long to bring its service to UK customers is complicated and relates to existing television rights. Sky, which is a major cable broadcasting network in the UK and also Europe at large, has several rights deals that extent to Disney products, including many of the Marvel films and several Disney-made television productions. The terms of the agreements made in the past between Disney and Sky prevented the American company from launching a rival service in the same territory while the deals were active. All of the relevant contracts are now thought to have expired, which has cleared the way for Disney’s belated launch.
With so many people looking for new entertainment options and distractions, Disney Plus is expected to be very popular from the day it launches. In the US, it’s believed that more than forty million people have downloaded the Disney app from Apple’s store, and that doesn’t account for people who may have downloaded it from Google’s Play Store instead. Not every single one of those downloads will have resulted in a purchase of the service, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that Disney is currently earning $100m per month from subscriptions alone. That just goes to show that even in times of global crisis, it always pays to be a TV company with desirable content to sell.