Disney's new streaming service, Disney Plus (or Disney+) launched to a rousing fanfare in the US, Canada and the Netherlands in November. And while the UK and Europe will have to wait until March 2020 for the service, it has at least just been brought forward a week early.
A natural-born Netflix rival, Disney Plus offers both 4K and HD films and TV shows from Disney and its subsidiaries like Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar, and at a competitive price to boot.
So what's in its catalogue? How much does it cost around the world? And will it be better than Amazon Video and Netflix? Read on as we dig into what Disney Plus has to offer...
What is Disney Plus?
It's Disney's new streaming service – originally announced back in 2017 but now available in the US, Canada and the Netherlands (and very soon to be in the UK and select European markets). The Hollywood giant has seen what Netflix is doing and thought it could do with a piece of the action. To that end, Disney is taking its ball back and pulling its Star Wars and Marvel franchises from its now arch-rival.
It's a wise move. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the forthcoming Apple TV Plus are building their streaming businesses on offering original content that you can't see anywhere else. Disney's nearly-century-old back catalogue – plus its lucrative subsidiaries – means there's plenty to tempt viewers following the launch, whereas its upstart rivals have had to start from scratch. In the streaming business, that's a huge advantage.
When does Disney Plus launch?
The service went live on 12th November 2019 in the US, Canada and Netherlands. A week later it is slated to launch in Australia and New Zealand. Sadly, for the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany, it was a case of waiting until 31st March 2020 owing to pre-existing licences for Disney content in those regions – which don't run out until then. However, that's now been brought forward to 24th March.
Disney says it wants to launch "in most major markets within the first two years" and there will be announcements on other regions in the near future.
Disney is investing heavily in the service, pulling out all the stops to deliver something to really rival the established services. By the end of 2020, Disney wants to have 90 million subscribers. Given the volume and quality of content it has to offer, would you bet against it?
How much does Disney Plus cost?
The big news is it's cheaper than Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
The Disney streaming service costs $6.99 per month in the US, where Netflix starts at $9 a month and Amazon's monthly price is $8.99.
If you'd rather pay annually, it will cost you $70 a year. That's a saving of around $14 on the monthly price. If you're happy to sign up to three years of Disney+ now, you could save a pretty penny. The House of Mouse recently launched discounted pre-orders for the service, offering a three-year-deal for $23 off the regular price – that works out at just $3.92 per month.
UK & Europe
Ahead of the March launch, Disney has confirmed a subscription price of £5.99/€6.99 per month, or £59.99/€69.99 for an annual subscription – which works out as just under £5/€6 per month, undercutting Netflix's cheapest offering (£5.99/€7.99 per month) on a yearly basis.
These subscription prices were expected, falling in-line with the $6.99 monthly and $70 annual costs in the US.
Disney Plus is priced at $8.99CAD per month (or $89.99 per year) in Canada, and €6.99 per month (or €69.99 per year) in the Netherlands. In Australia it will be priced at $8.99AUD per month (or $89.99 per year) and in New Zealand it's $9.99NZD per month (or $99.99 per year), respectively.
There's also a special Disney bundle in the US that costs $12.99 per month and gives you access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu.
The $6.99 price gets you four simultaneous streams, as well as 4K – that's something Netflix can only offer on its Premium tier, which costs $15.99 a month. Disney Plus customers can create and manage up to seven profiles on a single account, too.
Disney hasn't announced any other tiers of subscriptions. At the moment, it seems it's going all in on the basic package, which should give it a real advantage over Netflix.
What can you watch on Disney Plus?
Lots. At launch, it offers "nearly 500 films and 7500" episodes. These include new Disney originals like Toy Story 4, the live-action version of The Lion King and the highly anticipated sequel to Frozen. TV series based on Monsters Inc. and High School Musical have also joined the party.
Classics including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, Bambi, The Lion King, Lady and The Tramp, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella are all there too, as well as three of the four most profitable films ever made: Avatar, Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
This – especially that latter statement – is quite the proposition, as it means Disney Plus is the only place to see this December's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Captain Marvel and all future releases from both Lucasfilm and Marvel.
Someone asked us to formally introduce ourselves so of course we made a video. pic.twitter.com/VZLrJ6ff7kAugust 19, 2019
But Disney isn't just relying on its back catalogue. It's also investing heavily in original, new content. Said content will vary from region to region, but there are 10 new films and 25 original series promised.
According to Disney's chief financial officer, Christine McCarthy, the firm is investing at least $1 billion into original content within the first year. Its first project? The Mandalorian, the first ever live-action Star Wars series. Directed by Elf director Jon Favreau, the eight-part series takes place five years after Return of the Jedi and follows a lone Mandalorian in the outer reaches of the galaxy far beyond the authority of the New Republic. The first episode was released at launch, and Disney Plus released further episodes on a weekly basis.
That's not the only new Star Wars show on the horizon. The second live-action series set in the universe will follow the adventures of Rebel spy Cassian Andor during the formative years of the Rebellion and prior to the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It goes into production this year.
And Ewan McGregor will reprise his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi for a new series based on the Jedi master.
Then there's The World According to Jeff Goldblum, a documentary series in which Goldblum 'pulls back the curtain on a seemingly familiar object to reveal a world of astonishing connections.
Marvel Studios is also working on a new live-action series for Disney Plus. Loki will star Tom Hiddleston as the titular superhero, who is the adopted brother of Thor and often his enemy. Though given his sometime anti-hero status, we're sure the series will give the character plenty of moral ambiguity.
Other Marvel highlights include spin-offs for The Falcon, The Winter Soldier, WandaVision and She-Hulk.
Disney owns 20th Century Fox (the home of The Simpsons), ABC, FX, ESPN and National Geographic, too. So expect to see plenty more besides animations and superhero franchises.
How can you watch Disney Plus?
Disney Plus works across Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV, Android phones, Android TVs, Google Chromecast and Chromecast built-in devices, Xbox One, all Android based Sony TVs, PlayStation4, Roku streaming players and Roku TVs – just so long as you're in the right country (ie the US, Canada or the Netherlands).
Disney has also announced a deal with Amazon to feature the Disney Plus app on Fire TV products. You can also access the app on Samsung and LG smart TVs.
What will Disney Plus look like?
The short answer: quite similar to Netflix. As you can see in the interface above, (which Disney revealed before its launch) it's image-led, with one big banner at the top promoting the latest film or show.
You can also filter by which brand's content you want to see. So click Disney, and you'll only see Disney shows and films. The same goes for Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
We'll be sure to bring you more information on Disney Plus as and when we see it.