Unless you've been living in entertainment exile over the past week or so, you've probably heard the news that Disney (NYSE: DIS) plans to pull its content from Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) in favor of creating its own video-streaming service.
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Except that's not really true. Despite the bevy of headlines that indicate in no uncertain terms that the two entertainment juggernauts are parting ways in a clean separation, what Disney actually had to say about the deal makes it clear that couldn't be further from the truth.
Perspective is in order
To be clear, in addition to launching an ESPN-branded streaming service early next year (Disney owns 80% of the sports network), the House of Mouse is introducing its own Disney-branded, direct-to-consumer, streaming service in 2019.
As the company elaborated in its press release:
The new Disney-branded service will become the exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar [...]. With this strategic shift, Disney will end its distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate." [emphasis mine]
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So for now, at least, Disney is only saying it will stop distributing new Disney- and Pixar-branded theatrical content on Netflix's platform -- and even that won't happen for another year and a half. But to be fair, this was an understandable move considering that newer content from the big screen is a primary differentiating factor for Disney in today's competitive media environment.
"These announcements marked the beginning of what will be an entirely new growth strategy for the company," added Disney CEO Robert Iger during the subsequent conference call, "one that takes advantage of the opportunities the changing media and technology industries provide us to leverage the strength of our great brands."
Marvel, Lucasfilm, and ABC are safe (for now)
In addition, Disney management clarified during their subsequent conference call that their new streaming service will not include Disney's Marvel and Lucasfilm (primarily Star Wars) titles.
That said, Disney hasn't decided exactly how to proceed with Marvel and Lucasfilm. Rather, Iger noted that the company is still debating the best possibilities for the two blockbuster-generating brands, whether that means launching other streaming services around them, or continuing "to license them to a pay service like Netflix."
He also highlighted Netflix's handling of Marvel original programming -- its exclusive series so far include Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Defenders -- as a "mutually beneficial" relationship, one in which Netflix was able to leverage Marvel's brand while Disney successfully mined its intellectual property.
Finally, when asked about potential changes to Disney's relationship with Netflix in terms of ABC programming (Disney also owns 100% of ABC) and other children's content, Iger responded:
There is no change from our side. I can't speak for them, but we've had a great relationship with them. We made a decision some years back to license them the Studio output deal. They paid us well for that, and they did well as well. It represented real anchor programming for Netflix before they had an opportunity to ramp up their own original production, which they've obviously done aggressively and quite successfully. [...] They've also licensed a number of ABC shows. We hope they'll continue to do that.
The bottom line
Long story short, though Disney is taking back some of the goodies to which Netflix viewers have grown accustomed, those goodies are limited to new Disney and Pixar theatrical releases starting in 2019. And if Disney has its way in hoping for Netflix's continued patronage, it will still leave plenty of great Disney-owned content remaining on Netflix's platform for years to come.