Disney+ is coming to the UK and Europe a week earlier than originally planned

In a surprise move, Disney+ have moved up their launch date for the UK and certain European countries to 24th March 2020. Does this date mean more than it seems?

Disney+ Star Wars
Disney+ have moved up their EMEA launch date. Image: Disney+

Disney+ UK launch

The original release date of Disney+ in the UK and Europe was 31st March 2020, as we reported back in November.

However, this morning Walt Disney Direct to Customer and International (DTCI) announced a change. The release has been brought forward by one week. Disney+ will now be available from 24th March. The subscription price has been confirmed at £5.99 per month.

There isn’t any information in the statement to clarify why this has changed. It says:

The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International segment has set March 24th as the new launch date for Disney+ in markets across Western Europe. Pricing has also been confirmed at £5.99/€6.99 per month, or £59.99/€69.99 for an annual subscription

According to the announcement, the streaming service will launch in the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland on March 24th. Additional Western Europe markets, including Belgium, the Nordics, and Portugal, will follow in summer 2020.

Strategic reasoning?

It seems odd to announce this pivot. Perhaps Disney has identified a major TV event that they want to get out in front of? Alternatively, it could be that the teething problems in the US have encouraged the streaming service to pitch for an earlier European release.

Within days of the launch, there was a hiccup with the aspect ratio of older shows. The Simpsons was shot in a 4:3 ratio but aired in 16:9 which meant cutting out much of the screen. Viewers picked up that this ruined the jokes. It was an oversight that was quickly picked up and told a fix was on the way.

Disney+ subscribers also reported continuous connection errors. With one of the biggest names out there, it’s no surprise their servers were hit with a wave of traffic. Disney’s customer service seemed unable to keep up with the influx of questions raised, with long delays.

Disney+ character line up showing Moana, The Incredibles, Iron Man, Darth Vadar and a Panda from National Geographic
Disney+ includes titles from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars & National Geographic. Image: Disney

Disappearing titles

The streaming wars are not smooth waters to charter. After a few months since launch, we reported on titles disappearing from the catalogue.

After a few moments of silence Disney did offer some transparency. Representatives revealed that prior to Disney launching their streaming service, they had to honour previously signed licence deals, which is fine. Movies such as Black Panther for example had already been licensed to Netflix meaning that their biggest rival in the streaming wars still had their fingers on Disney’s play button.

Black Panther
Big releases like Black Panther have been licensed to rival Netflix. Image: Disney

2020 streaming

I have a sneaking suspicion that the earlier release date is strategic. Netflix has quite the calendar of releases this year. Amazon Prime is also gearing up for a big year. And let’s not forget the launch of HBO Max in May 2020 and the recent reveal of NBC’s take on streaming.

Let’s not forget the big the big success with The Mandalorian, Star Wars’ first solo series if we move The Clone Wars aside for now. I don’t think you could have avoided stories or hearing mention of ‘Baby Yoda’. It’s unclear how well The Mandalorian did as Disney are keeping their viewing figures close to their chest for now, but with more episodes being commissioned its clear it did well.

One thing is for sure, the battlefield of streaming has just got more crowded and so will the choice available. Time will only tell if consumers are willing to hold multiple subscriptions to watch their favorite series or just stick to one.

Why do you think Disney+ has decided to bring forward its EMEA launch date? Let us know your thoughts!

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