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Disney unveils its Netflix streaming rival Disney+

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

The Walt Disney Company (DIS) announced on Thursday its long-awaited movie and TV series streaming platform, Disney+, a service intended to rival Netflix (NFLX) and Apple’s forthcoming Apple TV+.

“Our brands serve a broad array of consumers across all the world,” said Kevin Mayer, chairman, direct-to-consumer and international, at a company event in Burbank, California on Thursday. “As a result, almost all consumers in our major markets around the world are familiar with our brands, and more than 1 billion people identify themselves as true fans.”

Disney+ will first be available in the U.S. on November 12, 2019 for $6.99 a month (or $69.99 a year) on TVs, PlayStation 4 consoles, Roku devices and mobile devices. Disney said it will stagger the global rollout, launching to the rest of North America in the first quarter of 2020, Asia Pacific in the first quarter of 2022, and Western Europe in first quarter and second quarter of 2023.

Disney+ content will include existing movies and TV shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, as well as original films and shows in the works, including a live-action “Lady and the Tramp,” actor Kristin Bell’s high school musical series “Encore!” and “The Mandalorian,” a live-action Star Wars TV show.

A vast catalog

In its first year, Disney said it plans on launching more than 35 original series and 10 original movies and specials, and will license 7,500 episodes of TV shows. By the fifth year, Disney said it plans for Disney+ to have at least 50 original series, 10 original movies and series, and 10,000 licensed episodes from past TV shows.

Michael Paull, president of Disney Streaming Services, said on Thursday that Disney planned on leveraging all its partnerships and relationships — working with Disney Cruise Lines, Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Hulu, ESPN, and Pixar, among others — to reach over 100 million households around the world. Paull said the service could reach 95% of its entire audience at launch.

Disney is betting big on Disney+. Its announcement comes weeks after that of Apple TV+, Apple’s (AAPL) streaming service due out later this year with content from Hollywood heavyweights such as Oprah, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

Teaser footage

However, unlike Apple, which trotted out Hollywood talent onstage at Apple TV+’s unveiling but didn’t show any footage, Lucasfilm unveiled the first footage from “The Mandalorian,” a series exclusive to Disney+ that takes place in the Star Wars series five years after “Return of the Jedi.”

“We're starting with new characters and new time period,” Iron Man director Jon Favreau explained.

Disney and Pixar screened unseen footage of upcoming films “Frozen II” and “Toy Story 4,” which would appear on Disney+ immediately after their theatrical windows later this year. Pixar Chief Creative Officer Pete Doctors also teased never-before-seen footage from “Monsters at Work,” an upcoming Disney+ series spun off from the 2001 Pixar blockbuster “Monsters, Inc.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, showed off a clip of “Avengers: Endgame,” saying that the upcoming film, due out in theaters April 26, would land on Disney+ after its theatrical release window.

Marvel Studios will be creating original series for Disney+. One such show, “Wanda Vision” will feature characters from the Avengers films, including the Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olson, and Vision, portrayed by Paul Bettany.

Added Feige: “These shows will be on the same level of quality you’ve grown accustomed to from Marvel Studios with major ramifications on other series and films.”