Netflix, watch out: Disney unveils streaming service, charging US$7 a month

Disney said it intended to roll out the streaming service in Europe and Asia, starting next year. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG) - Walt Disney has talked about plans to start a Netflix-style streaming service for two years. On Thursday (April 11) came the big reveal.

D-Day, as some in Hollywood called it.

The service will cost US$7 (S$9.50) a month when it debuts on Nov 12, a gambit that the entertainment giant can undercut Netflix in an increasingly crowded field.

The platform will be several dollars less than Netflix's most popular plan, which costs US$11, and it will weigh heavily on Disney's finances.

Disney+ is not expected to break even for about five years.

Mr Robert A. Iger, Disney's chief executive, offered long-awaited details about his counter-attack on the tech giants that have moved into the entertainment business.

Disney+ is dedicated to movies and shows from Disney, Pixar, the Star Wars franchise, National Geographic and Marvel. In a differentiator from rival streaming services, subscribers will be able to download all Disney+ content for offline access.

To market Disney+, the company vowed to use the full reach of its empire as it has never done before, starting with a Star Wars fan convention in Chicago this weekend.

Disney will also mobilise its cruise line, global theme parks, retail stores, hotels and television networks, including ESPN and ABC.

Disney said it intended to roll out the streaming service in Europe and Asia, starting next year.

The presentation began with a 14-minute reel highlighting Disney's vast library, which now includes Fox movies like Titanic, The Sound Of Music, Avatar and Alien.

Mr Iger called the library "a treasure trove of long-lasting, valuable content (that) no other content or technology company can rival".

The moment amounted to a turning point in the streaming wars. For the first time, a traditional media company demonstrated the firepower needed to compete with Silicon Valley in the fast-growing realm of online video.

Disney's plans could have failed to impress, along the lines of what happened to Apple last month when it staged a similar event focused on its streaming ambitions.

Apple trotted out celebrities but offered few specifics - nothing on pricing, no launch date, and barely any footage.

Unlike Apple, Disney unveiled footage from original shows that are headed to Disney+.

One live-action series is called The Mandalorian.

Set in the Star Wars universe and created by Jon Favreau, the show cost an estimated US$100 million for 10 episodes, on a par with earlier seasons of HBO's extravagant Game Of Thrones.

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