Over the past few months, pressure has been building on Disney to expand the amount of content available on Disney+ in the United States that is aimed at adults.  Shareholders and stock analysts have become aware that Disney+ isn’t growing its domestic subscriber base as expected.  Disney+ has had many hits, including “Star Wars: The Mandalorian” and the Marvel series. There have only been a few significant additions outside of those two brands, such as “Hamilton” and “The Beatles: Get Back”, which have mainstream appeal.

But this week, there were a couple of significant surprise additions onto Disney+ from ABC, “The Christmas Light Fight” and “Live in Front of a Studio Audience”.  Neither of which were announced in advance and just randomly added onto Disney+ with no promotion. In fact, the “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” wasn’t even added onto the “New on Disney+” section on Disney+, so most people probably don’t even know it’s on the streaming service.

During December, Disney is adding several holiday specials from ABC onto Disney+, including:

Disney+ has previously added some of the ABC Disney branded specials, such as the Christmas Parade or Singalong.  But they are interconnected with well-known films and characters, so fitted within the “Disney” brand on the streaming service.


These new ABC additions almost feel like a last-minute decision to be released on Disney+, since they weren’t included in the December announcements in mid-November.   While Disney sometimes keeps back a surprise release or two, a whole wave of ABC specials is something ultimately brand new.

There could be many reasons for these surprise ABC additions:

Shows For Adults

Many of these specials are perfect for the entire family to sit around the TV and watch together, regardless of age.  These specials aren’t made for children, and so they will have mass appeal for a general audience.  Something Disney+ in the US has had criticism over.   These specials can be enjoyed by adult subscribers of Disney+, but are extremely safe shows that don’t push any boundaries.  It should also give Disney some additional viewing data on how this type of content is consumed on the platform and almost be used to test if people want more content like this on Disney+.

Time Sensitive

The majority of these specials are for this years holiday season.  So they have a pretty limited shelflife and are probably likely to be removed from Disney+ at some point, which is often the case for previous holiday specials.   So releasing these specials on Disney+ is just increasing the chances of someone watching them.  They are all being released after they’ve been available on ABC or Hulu, so they aren’t necessarily going to bring any new subscribers in to watch them, but it also offers something “new” for Disney+ subscribers.  It’s just a shame they weren’t available the day after they aired on ABC, as Disney does with Hulu.

A Quick Fix

Disney has been getting pressure from many directions about its decision to keep Disney+ in its “baby-sitting” mode.  It doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to see executives looking for a quick fix to the criticism by throwing additional content for adults onto Disney+ for the holidays, without spending any more money.  Plus, the holiday content is generally all family-friendly, so there is no risk of much backlash from Disney+ subscribers in the US who don’t want mature content on the streaming service.  It also doesn’t impact on Hulu, since they’ve all been available on that streaming service since they broadcast on ABC.


Cheap Content

These holiday specials are generally much cheaper to make than a usual drama series or film.  But more importantly, by Disney spreading out this content across more platforms, it’s getting more value for money for its investment.

Ultimately, this is a win-win situation for Disney.  Disney+ gets new content at very little expense, and subscribers have more content to enjoy.

While throwing up some ABC holiday specials isn’t going to hold back criticism over the lack of general entertainment on Disney+, this type of content can fill the void and show some subscribers in the US that Disney+ can have more content that isn’t aimed at children.

There are lots of great shows available on ABC that are suitable for the entire family, keeping Disney+ within its “Family-Friendly” feel that it launched with.  So hopefully, we start seeing more ABC shows and specials being shared onto Disney+.  It would be a great way of building up the general entertainment side of Disney+.

Internationally, Disney+ already has lots of content from ABC and isn’t restricted to being “Family Friend”, but personally, I’d also like for all of these holiday specials to also be released internationally on Disney+ at the same time.  Offering subscribers more choice and for Disney to get more value for money out of their content.  There could be issues with international subtitles not being available for these titles, but that shouldn’t be an issue for some countries like the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland or Australia.  Even if these were only available for December, it seems like a no-brainer that this content is available to as many people as possible.

Hopefully, this is just the start of a new push by Disney to build up the general entertainment offerings on Disney+, without rocking the boat too much.    It’s a small step, but certainly a step in the right direction.

What do you think of Disney+ adding these ABC holiday specials?




Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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  1. Dylan December 11, 2021

    Absolutely, this is a major sign of change. My hope for Disney+ in the new year is that Disney actually listens to the people here in the US and hopefully add more ABC content onto Disney+. Here in the US we only have 8 ABC shows on Disney+ which are America’s Funniest Home Videos, Agent Carter, Boy Meets World, Dinosaurs, Inhumans, The Muppets (2015), Once Upon a Time & Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. It will change to 9 next year because Agents of SHIELD’s time with Netflix will expire in October and will probably be added to Disney+ here in the US next November. If you didn’t know a lot of old ABC shows were recently added onto Hulu here in the US so this maybe a cause for concern but if 50% of people here in the US want more mature content onto Disney+, Disney should just split the streaming rights to the ABC & 20th TV shows with Disney+ and Hulu and it would be a win-win situation (which they should have done a long time ago).

    1. steve December 11, 2021

      Agents of Shield will not be available next year as the ABC contracts with Netflix are different than the contracts for movies. Disney Plus has plenty of content that is currently locked in the vault or licensed to others for various legal reasons. They need to dedicate a legal team to addressing much of the content licensing agreements needing to allow streaming the music, or other issues holding back the service from expanding what is offered. I personally look back at all that ABC content they have produced and shake my head each week at how little they actually put out.

      1. ScionStorm December 11, 2021

        Agents of SHIELD expires on Netflix next year. Same as Sophia the First.

  2. Dan December 11, 2021

    Bizarre that there's anyone out there that wouldn't want mature content on Disney+ US. Disney+ in many other countries already has a massive amount of mature content and nobody has had a problem with it. It's a proven success in other countries already and there are parental controls for parents who want to "keep it family-friendly". Who on earth wants to pay two subscriptions to the same company, for TV shows and movies that could be on one combined streaming service with just one subscription fee?

  3. Jason December 14, 2021

    Not a big deal to me. I only got Disney+ for the Star Wars/Marvel content as well as the classic stuff. The newer stuff (outside of previously mentioned content) is not the least bit interesting to me.