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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

2 Key Issues From Disney’s Q3 Fiscal Announcement

Neither has anything to do with their making or not making financial projections.

1. The only thing really left from the 20th Century Fox studio that was operating for 84 years as a major is Fox Searchlight.

Aside from the indie arm, basically Disney purchased a big library (including IP rights), some cable positions, and a controlling position in Hulu. Yes, they have kept some of the Fox people and fired their Disney counterparts instead. Yes, Emma Watts is of value. And yes, they recover some IP segments they wanted (already noted).

But basically, they have Icahn-ed the shit out of Fox.

And the DOJ didn’t blink an eye. A major studio disappeared… and all we got was this lousy feeling of nostalgia.

2. Disney just slowed down the transition to streaming. A lot.

What went unsaid in today’s quarterly is that the integration of Fox into the digital future of Disney, which is the primary reason Disney moved on the Century City studio, is not going to happen in a hurry. There was an offering of Hulu pricing, but no real content pitch. The next quarterly will coincide with the launch of Disney+. No doubt, when Hulu get serious, it will be part of a price expansion by the company.

The studio dropped the ad-supported version of Hulu to $5.99, down $2 a month, in February of this year. Their announced price for Disney+ is $6.99. So, essentially, you get ESPN+ (normally $4.99 a la carte) for just 1 penny in the bundle announced today.

Why?

Because they are pushing for market share, not for as much revenue as possible, at this time.

Netflix is $8.99, $12.99 or $15.99. So in 2 of 3 situations, the full Disney package is the same cost or less than Netflix.

Netflix should have raised prices, but they also got pushed by Disney, as the “normal cost of streamers” will now be set at $13 for everyone. So expect WarnerMedia to follow suit and lower the cost of their streaming package from the previously announced $16-$17 a month.

But also expect the WarnerMedia offering to be less good at the lower price.

Comcast set their number at $12. Expect it to move to $12.99.

Bur back to Disney…

All of this suggests a strategy that is about withholding a good amount of content, looking to add clear value as these prices rise. And this will become the strategy that everyone starts following, at least for a while.

That means that Hulu will not be changing dramatically when Disney+ launches in November. (Dear Lord, I hope the change the interface.) I’m sure there will be some titles from the Fox library to spruce things up. But the library is more than 4500 titles deep. There is no question that there is a strong demand from film lovers (and some lovers of film junk) for most of that library. Some is tied up past this November in different ways, no question. But while I had hoped that Disney would load up Hulu with at least 1000 Fox titles, my guess is that they will now keep it around a few hundred.

Disney knows, as any smart company would, that once you give it away, people come to expect whatever has been available at whatever price, even if they don’t take advantage of that content. There is a thing about cycling content, which Criterion Channel is doing with its site, but even for the small group of movie lovers that subscribe to that great app, the question of “Why is there a time limit on Ace In The Hole?” strikes many subscribers, even if they have seen the film before and wouldn’t watch it again before it cycles back in. Human nature.

So expect the aforementioned Criterion Channel to remain a separate stream until WarnerMedia decides it can make it a $3 a month premium option with the overall service. And look for a fuller TCM service than they start with to make that $5 a month. Less than the $9.99 a month now charged, but a significant premium as part of a monthly stream.

Expect Disney to make a significant Fox package to add to the existing Hulu package by November 2020.

Look for UniversalNBC to start accumulating data to figure out how to move forward with their streaming package, still anxious about promoting cable/satellite while trying to find a way to add paying subscribers. I predict their eventual product will look the least like what they first launch next year.

And what of Sony and Paramount? That’s another column for another day.

2 Responses to “2 Key Issues From Disney’s Q3 Fiscal Announcement”

  1. Hcat says:

    Well that’s great news for theater owners, Pre Disney Fox pulled in 1- 1.5 billion a year in BO receipts, now by suffocating production that will likely drop to about half a billion. That’s a significant amount of popcorn buying foot traffic sacrificed so we can get television remakes of The Sandlot and Wimpy Kid. They make a point that they are down year to year, but Disney shuffled back releases like Ford, Spys in Disguise and Ad Astra because they didn’t want to put anything else in the pipeline. Comcast and Disney should have reached a deal where they split the company down the middle with Disney getting television and Marvel rights and Comcast taking the movie studio.

    Looking at RKO, MGM, UA and now Fox, studios never seem to die from natural causes, they are always bought and then drowned.

  2. sam says:

    @Hcat: Yet in some form, one way or another, MGM/UA straggles along in Bondage along a Rocky road looking for its Creed.

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