When Disney+ launched in a handful of countries in 2019, many people theorised that we would eventually see everything The Walt Disney Company and its subsidiaries, past and present, if it was “family-friendly”.
Since 2019 Disney have changed CEOs, weathered a pandemic and in many countries transformed Disney+ in a majority of countries, having the “family-friendly” streamer now streaming more maturer content like “Alien” and “Prey”. Disney+ is now a major force in streaming, but that seems to be thanks to hit shows like “The Mandalorian” and “Loki” over Disney’s legacy films. Let me explain.
Lack Of Interest:
First, let’s take a crack at the first major point, there’s a lack of interest in many of the old titles from Disney’s legacy catalogue. Content like the “Dexter Riley” trilogy, “Not Quite Human”, “Phone Call From A Stranger,” or “With A Song In My Heart” have a lower interest level than Disney+’s original content, or content Disney produces for their other outlets (cable and theatrical) which are then sent to Disney+ after a determined period.
With the younger generations being more likely to subscribe to streaming services than the older generations, the interest many younger people will have for content made from, say, the 1930s will continue to diminish over the ages, as will interest for films from other decades.
Costs Would Be Too High:
This is a simple point but could be a massive factor in why not as much content is available from Disney’s long-storied history. The cost of restoration for some content might be relatively cheap in some regards, like the restoration of some classic Mickey Mouse shorts is a lot cheaper than, say, remastering the Disney-ABC series “Moonlighting”, which starred Bruce Willis. A Disney rep told “The Wrap”
“Look, the big problem we have is, the show is just larded with music. None of those rights have been sewn up, and we believe it would be cost prohibitive to go get them now.”
It is often cheaper to fund brand-new content than to restore legacy titles. Shows with multiple seasons from decades ago, for example, will have syndication and music royalties that need to be paid out and the restoration of the actual film or series video and audio to a high enough quality for streaming.
Creating New Content Free Of Issues:
This is a huge reason why the Disney library isn’t as widely available on Disney+. It is much easier and, sometimes, cheaper to make new content. Disney+ does offer some classic movies and series which contain “outdated cultural depictions” of different minority groups.
A brand new show like Disney+’s “Big Shot” can tackle themes like LGBTQ+ storylines, racism, sexism and disability awareness, to name a few, which would be cheaper for Disney to make and would have an easier time dancing around cultural depictions than say if Disney+ decided to add “Song Of The South” for some strange unexplained reason.
Any new content Disney commissions for Disney+ would have any syndication, musical or appearance rights sorted before they are released on the service.
Whilst this whole discussion can be debated (and has been across many social media accounts) as Disney looks to the future and how to grow the Disney+ subscriber base, the logical thing to do, in my opinion, is to focus on commissioning new content for different audiences across many different genres from K-dramas to British period dramas to sitcoms to anime to sci-fi to sports, then once Disney+ is profitable Disney would then have more financial backing to restore classic content for their streaming service.
Disney+ could also benefit from adding what I’ll refer to as “Collections By The Decade”, which would be collections of Disney-owned content per decade since the company’s inception back in 1923. However, the 1920s and 1930s would probably benefit from being one collection.
This debate is just a matter of differing opinions, and whilst there is a selection of titles I would like to see Disney release from its deep vault (hello, “The Mighty Thor” from 1967, Disney, please wink) but I have also come to terms with the fact that a lot of the more well-known titles like a majority (59 out of 60) Walt Disney Animation Studios films as well as films like “Mary Poppins”, “101 Dalmatians” (the live-action movies) and “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” as well as hundreds of television shows and thousands of other films.
Disney+, as a streaming service, Disney+ doesn’t necessarily need to add thousands of other lesser-known titles. It is more expensive to sort out all issues in getting those titles available on streaming. Does Disney+ benefit from having so many back catalogue titles in one place? Yeah, of course, they do, but Disney+ also benefits from having brand new series and movies like “The Mandalorian”, “Big Shot”, “Snowdrop”, “Rise”, “Clouds”, and “Loki” made exclusively for the Disney+ platform.
Do you think adding more legacy content to Disney+ is needed?