Disney to pull movies from Netflix, plans own streaming service

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The new Disney-branded service will become the exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 theatrical slate, which includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and The Lion King from Disney live-action. A broader Disney-branded offering should launch in 2019, just as its distribution deal with Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) expires.

Notably, ESPN will not be streaming pro football or basketball, at least initially.

Disney's entry into a crowded subscription streaming market and the cost of technology to support its own online services could weigh on earnings, Wall Street analysts said.

Disney has been talking about an ESPN-branded subscription service for a year now and the details the company provided Tuesday underscore just how cautious Iger is. "The Netflix service, or any service, is better off having them (at the right price)".

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The new ESPN streaming service, by Iger's reckoning, offers an escape hatch as the traditional pay-TV bundle loses viewers to online upstarts. Netflix has attracted more than 100 million global subscribers by offering a vast catalog of TV shows and movies on demand, and undermined consumer interest in live TV.

The availability of standalone streaming from channels like HBO and CBS is likely to accelerate that trend, as will the new services from Disney. One answer will mean that Disney has a stake in the future of online streaming.

The announcement by Disney and its varying impact is a reflection of the complexities of worldwide streaming rights.

But Richard Greenfield at BTIG Research argued that actions were "too little, too late" in a sector that is rapidly shifting to a Netflix model.

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The question is then: Is any single channel's worth of content enough to draw a respectable fraction of the Netflix crowd, or might consumers simply turn to the ever-growing library of premium Netflix exclusive content instead?

There is other good news for Netflix aside from the addition of Millarworld.

The continued decline of ESPN viewership has already hurt Disney's cable network revenue to the tune of about three percent under a year ago, while their blockbuster movie studios have experience similar troubles, with weaker overall performance. If there's greater "erosion" - say, if more people drop cable bundles or choose cheaper bundles without key Disney channels - the company has more ways to get its entertainment directly to customers, Iger said.

The company "has been suffering as ESPN subscriber numbers and ratings go downhill, and so is coming at this direct-to-consumer shift from a position of weakness rather than strength, making it more urgent and critical for the company´s future", Dawson said in a blog post.

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