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Disney CEO Bob Iger on Thursday said his studio will start its direct-to-consumer streaming service in late 2019, with Marvel and Star Wars movies on the upcoming app.
The 2019 launch will allow Disney to pull the Marvel and Star Wars movies from Netflix in two years, allowing them to migrate to the Disney-branded app. The Hollywood studio last month said it will be pulling its movies from Netflix and will launch an ad-free streaming service of its own in 2019.
Iger also told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles that the studio will produce four to five original films for exclusive use on the planned Disney app, mostly live action.
And around 500 films from the Disney library will show up on the direct-to-consumer platform, in addition to around 7,000 episodes of Disney TV fare.
“It will have the entire output of the studio, animation, live action at Disney, including Pixar, Star Wars and all the Marvel films,” Iger said. The Disney-branded app will also include around four to five original TV series, and the studio will produce three to four TV movies for the direct-to-consumer offering.
Also on the TV side, recent seasons of Disney TV series will appear on the platform, in addition to short-form content from the major studio. “You have to think of the Disney app as a traditional SVOD service,” Iger told investors, without specifying a monthly fee for what he added was a “treasure trove” of Disney-branded content.
Iger added the separate ESPN app, also intended as a direct-to-consumer offering, will launch in spring 2018. “If you’re a big sporting fan, it will be one app,” he added.
The planned ESPN app will include Major League Baseball games, NHL games, pro tennis and a slew of college sports events. “It will be 10,000 live sports events in the first year,” Iger forecast.
Disney in August said it had acquired a large stake in Major League Baseball’s streaming technology business, BAMTech, to get into the direct-to-consumer space.
The entertainment and media conglomerate agreed to acquire a 33 percent stake in BAMTech for $1 billion. BAMTech powers streaming services for several sports and media companies.
In August, Iger touted the growing opportunity for direct-to-consumer services but didn’t have many specifics to share about the planned streaming service’s pricing and the like beyond saying that the company would also invest in original content for it.
Disney in August also said it would launch a streaming service for its sports juggernaut ESPN.
Iger’s employment contract runs through mid-2019. No successor has been named. By Wall Street consensus, no internal candidate has emerged as a clear heir apparent since Disney jettisoned Iger’s original favorite, Tom Staggs, in 2015.
Several internal names have been mentioned as possible successors. Ben Sherwood, who serves as co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television, oversees a key profit center. Bob Chapek, who chairs Disney’s parks and resorts, has broad experience and also appears to have Iger’s trust. James Pitaro, the head of consumer products and interactive media, has digital experience, having served as head of Yahoo Media. And CFO Christine McCarthy has been working closely with Iger but lacks operational experience.
Georg Szalai contributed to this report.
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