Disney Plus could sell the rights to some movies and TV shows to offset its streaming losses.
Per Bloomberg, The Walt Disney Company is reportedly looking into the prospect of licensing Disney Plus films and TV series to raise some much-needed cash. The report comes ahead of Disney's Q1 2023 earnings call on Wednesday, February 8, at which CEO Bob Iger is expected to reveal details about the company's revamped streaming strategy.
Disney is under pressure to cut costs across its streaming division. The company's Q4 2022 direct-to-consumer operating losses – essentially, how much money it pumped into its two main streamers, Disney Plus and Hulu – amounted to an eye-watering $1.5 billion. That figure was almost double what Disney injected into its streaming division in Q3 2022 ($0.8 billion).
Understandably, Iger and company are concerned about hemorrhaging even more money over the next 12 months. It's believed that part of Iger's plan to address this issue is to release Disney-owned content on other platforms, although it's unclear what projects – including which of the best Disney Plus shows and best Disney Plus movies – could make the jump to other platforms. Additionally, there's no word on which services might become the new home for parts of Disney's back catalog.
If Disney confirms plans to sell films and TV shows to some of its rivals, it'll be the second major streamer to do so in recent months. Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), which is also reining in spending on its streaming sector, has sold the rights to some HBO Max content, such as Raised by Wolves and The Nevers, to rival platforms including Tubi and Roku.
The potential return of Disney content to other services would evoke memories of a time predating Disney Plus' release. Before Disney joined the streaming race in November 2019, Disney-owned movies and TV series were available on streamers including Netflix, and the world's best streaming service was also home to nearly every Marvel-produced TV show, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones. The arrival of Disney Plus, and they subsequent conclusion of Netflix's Marvel TV series deal, brought that agreement to an end.
Analysis: a price to pay to stay competitive
Of course, the big question is which Disney Plus series and movies would be licensed to other services.
For starters, it would be a big mistake for Disney to sell the rights to its suite of Marvel and Star Wars content. The likes of Loki season 1, WandaVision, The Mandalorian, and Andor have helped cement Disney Plus as the second-most popular streamer in the world. If Disney wants to remain competitive in the streaming market, it has to retain the rights to its biggest hits, with such exclusives key to enticing new subscribers and keeping hold of its current user base.
So, what content could be licensed to other streaming services? Right now, our best guess is anything that's not Marvel or Star Wars-based. Even then, Disney won't want other popular and/or critically acclaimed shows, such as Only Murders in the Building, The Bear, and Extraordinary to be available elsewhere.
The most likely scenario is that reality TV shows (The Kardashians, for example), universally adored series (The Simpsons), and movies produced by 20th Century Studios/Searchlight Pictures (The Banshees of Inisherin) will be shopped around. Some of these productions are already available on other platforms, so adding these Disney-owned properties to other services wouldn't be as much of a shock.
One thing of significant note is that Disney is pulling back on its direct-to-streaming movie strategy. According to Bloomberg, Iger is prioritizing theatrical releases for every Disney-produced film moving forward. That includes every movie in Marvel Phase 5 and beyond – with Marvel Studios producer Nate Moore telling Deadline that the Disney subsidiary wants to "preserve" the theatrical experience for its fans.
For now, then, we're all in the dark over which Disney Plus shows and movies could be made available on other services. We've reached out to Disney regarding Bloomberg's report, and what content might be viewable elsewhere soon, and we'll update this article if we get a response.
For more Disney-based coverage, read up on the best Hulu shows and best Hulu movies. Additionally, find out how to watch the Marvel movies in order, or read our new Star Wars TV shows and movies explained article.
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As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.
An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.
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