When Disney+ launched, it was able to pull in an incredible amount of subscribers, with its Marvel and Star Wars exclusive shows pulling in adult subscribers, but that was generally, the only content appealing to older subscribers. Causing a slowdown in subscribers in the US, with many pointing to the “family-friendly” focus of the streaming service as one of the major reasons for this slowdown, especially since over half of the households with Disney+ don’t have kids.
In the past few months, Disney executives have spoken on many occasions about more general entertainment coming to Disney+ in the United States. We’ve heard from Disney CEO Bob Chapek on many occasions at quarterly investors’ calls and at the annual shareholder meeting, but in reality, we’ve seen very little content actually added to Disney+.
Earlier in the year, Disney+ started adding some random ESPN 30 For 30 documentaries, along with some content to celebrate Black History Month, such as the hit comedy series, “Blackish” and its spinoff, “Grownish”.
Then, in mid-March, the parental controls in the United States were upgraded to match how other countries like the UK and Canada have been for over a year. Leading many subscribers were hoping that we would start seeing a flood of content for adults and teenagers heading to Disney+.
But instead of a flood, it’s been a couple of drops. Disney made a big deal out of adding all of the former Netflix Original Marvel series like “Daredevil” in March and the South Korean Disney+ series, “Snowdrop” before that. Plus we’ve had some big releases from 20th Century Studios like “West Side Story” and “Free Guy”.
However, when the current list for what’s coming to Disney+ in April, is rather bare, except, for one weird addition, “Kiss Of The Dragon”, which is coming to Disney+ in the US and Canada on Friday, 29th April.
This is the first rated R film advertised to be coming to Disney+ in the US, though, Disney could still make some surprise additions before then, like it did this past Friday, with the addition of the 90s spoof comedy film, “Hot Shot” and its sequel.
What’s even odder, is that in its what’s coming to Disney+ in April video, it spends more time highlighting the March additions like “Turning Red” and “The Defenders” saga Marvel shows. The whole point of these videos is to get people excited about what’s coming, not remind them what was added last month.
With thousands of films and shows available from Disney’s extensive library, it’s picked a twenty-year-old martial arts film to be the first R rated film. It’s not a popular Marvel film like “Deadpool” or “Logan”, or a significant franchise like “Planet Of The Apes”, “Die Hard”, “Predator” or “Aliens”.
If you’ve ever looked at the what’s coming to Disney+ lists for other countries like Canada, Australia or the UK, you’ll see there are new, often dozens of shows and films being added every week. And it would make sense for Disney+ to follow a similar release strategy in the US, rather than just making a massive drop of thousands of titles at once, as it did with the Star launch last year.
Once again, Disney is playing it safe and slowly dipping its toe in the water before fully embracing its mature content on Disney+.
Hopefully, at some point, Disney will make a big announcement regarding its plans for general entertainment on Disney+. Revealing its plans to start adding popular shows and films, all of which are available on Disney+ in other countries.
Could Disney be holding off on making their general entertainment announcements until the next quarterly investors call or for the upcoming “Upfront” events where it showcases to advertisers some of the new shows heading to its television networks and streaming services? Is it waiting until its D23 Expo event in September? Is it waiting until the lower-priced ad-tier version of Disney+ is available? Or are they waiting until they finalise a deal with Comcast for the remaining 33% stake of Hulu, so they can finally merge them together?
It’s also possible that all of the recent controversies surrounding Disney, may have seen some publicity plans change, especially with regards to showing Disney+ shifting its focus from family-friendly content in the US and how that might come across.
All of these could be legitimate reasons why Disney hasn’t pushed the trigger on going all-in on general entertainment.
Disney has already had great success with adding mature content to Disney+ internationally, with a massive reduction in the churn of subscribers and increased engagement among subscribers since adding its sixth brand, Star, last year. Disney+ is launching in another 40+ countries this summer, all of which include content from Disney’s studios like 20th Century Studios, FX and Searchlight Pictures.
Adding one rated R film and a bunch of ESPN documentaries in April isn’t what most people had in mind when Disney+ changed its parental controls. We are likely to see more releases that haven’t been announced, which is also a new trend Disney+ has been doing this year, as every month so far in 2022, the initial announcements about what’s coming soon, have been missing about half of the final additions. All of which, seem to indicate that plans keep changing or that the plan is still being put together.
Understandably, Disney is approaching its general entertainment strategy differently in the US than it has done internationally. The existence of Hulu complicates things and how Disney’s “wholesome” family-friendly branding doesn’t match the 21st-century version of the company. The Walt Disney Company has expanded its content creation strategy to reach all audiences to compete with other companies like Warner Brothers, Comcast and Netflix. This is why it purchased Lucasfilm, Marvel, and 20th Century Fox, but Disney still means Mickey Mouse and Princesses to many. This is probably why Disney’s general entertainment approach in the US has been so slow.
It’s only got one shot at doing this, but at some point, it’s got to commit to adding general entertainment and actually start doing it. Just a handful of general entertainment titles a month, just isn’t enough.
What do you think Disney’s general entertainment strategy is for Disney+?