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Disney Plus UK: why no launch date, Disney?

(Image credit: Disney)

The launch of Disney Plus UK still eludes us, despite a release date having been confirmed for the upcoming Disney Plus streaming service – launching on November 12 in the US, Canada and the Netherlands, with a November 19 launch in New Zealand and Australia. For those of us stuck living on Old Blighty, though, when exactly can we expect Disney Plus UK to land?

The silence is even harder to bear knowing that viewers in the Netherlands are already enjoying the Disney Plus service – with a free trial / public beta before the official launch date. You can see what our Dutch team thought in this hands on Disney Plus review (helpfully translated), but those of us in the UK still have no confirmation on when Disney Plus UK is going to land.

It's a tricky thing to predict without official comment from Disney. English speaking markets will naturally be targeted hard for the global rollout, but any TV streaming service has to take part in separate licensing and distribution negotiations for every territory they move into, curating a separate catalogue depending on where they have the rights to show and stream particular shows and films.

That's why the US and UK versions of Netflix have different libraries, and why people are so keen to use Netflix VPNs to access shows not available in their own territory.

This is less of a problem for Disney, which owns the majority of the content it will be bringing to the service – unlike, say, Netflix, which still licenses a large number of shows, despite its recent push into producing more of its own content.

But with five territories getting Disney Plus at launch, and no Disney Plus UK launch date confirmed, when can UK viewers expect to get their hands on the TV streaming service?

People don't like to wait

The first image from the Star Wars live action show The Mandalorian, showing a person wearing Mandalorian armor

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Understandably some of us aren't quite sure why the UK has been left out of Disney Plus: Phase One.

Asking for people's patience is one thing, but some Twitter users make the good point that the staggered release will likely cause issues in terms of spoilers for launch day content, or any new show – like the Star Wars TV show, The Mandalorian, coming in 2019 (pictured above) – that hits the US weeks or months before the UK.

Issues like online piracy and VPNs will also be more likely when big-name shows are hitting the US without a way to access them abroad – though Disney could always license some of its shows to UK providers (say, Sky TV) in the interim.

Disney Plus UK: can we learn from Netflix?

(Image credit: Netflix)

The best point of comparison is in other global streaming services that have had staggered releases outside of the US.

Netflix, for instance, first launched in the US in 1998 as a DVD rental service. It didn't make the move to online streaming until many years later – and it wasn't until 2010 that the platform was able to expand beyond US borders.

The first international territory was the US's close neighbour, Canada – where it launched in 2010 with a lower subscription price and much more limited library of titles, given the difficulty and expense of obtaining streaming rights abroad. We can expect a similar barrier for Disney Plus, and there will likely be fewer films and shows in non-US territories, especially close to launch.

2011 also saw Netflix expand into South America, as well as the Caribbean. It wasn't until 2012 that Netflix came to Europe, launching in the UK and Ireland, as well as Scandinavia. Now, of course, Netflix streams across huge swathes of the planet, supporting 23 languages in over 190 countries.

Disney Plus will be getting more of a head start, given it's jumping right into a streaming platform, and for five territories at its November launch, including areas of Europe.

It might seem odd not to include the UK in that first batch, but Disney Plus UK should arrive a lot quicker than the two-year delay seen when Netflix started expanding, given Disney knows it is playing catch-up. UK audiences don't require the same kind of extensive localisation process as most of Europe or Asia (given the shared language with US viewers), so that should be a simpler proposition.

So, when will Disney Plus UK land?

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Disney has said it plans to bring its platform to "all major markets within the first two years" of the platform's life (via ScreenRant).

Our original prediction was early- or mid-2020, and that time frame still probably holds true. The lack of an official date so far makes 2019 unlikely – if Disney Plus UK was coming before Christmas, we expect we would have heard about it by now.

Disney won't want to miss out on UK revenue, and will be aware of users being pushed towards other means if highly-anticipated content doesn't find a way to them soon.