Disney+ launched in the US just a couple of months ago and has already had some issues. Now titles are vanishing from the streaming service before it even launches in the UK and much of Europe. What’s the story?
The Disney vault
Disney has a tradition of keeping us guessing. Whilst it seemed as though with the launch of Disney+ the entire back catalog would be released, that isn’t quite so.
In the past, Disney has released movies from their archives for release on DVD and BluRay and then locked them back up again. We were wrong to think these would remain available forever on Disney+!
I think a lot of subscribers will be really disappointed. One of the appeals of Disney+ when compared to other established streaming services, like Netflix, was access to their enormous back catalog.
When the new service launched, Disney CEO Bob Iger said it ‘would house the entire Disney motion picture library.’ I.e. ‘the movies that you speak of that traditionally have been kept in the ‘vault’ and brought out basically every few years.’
This probably refers to the 13 titles within the Signature Collection. This includes classics like Bambi and Beauty and the Beast. It doesn’t, however, guarantee that all new releases will remain constantly available.
So far, movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Home Alone, Home Alone 2 and The Sandlot have disappeared. These were removed from the service on 1st January 2020.
This follows a pattern we see on other subscription TV services. For example, Sky makes available seasonal movies for free on-demand download over the festive season. Once this is over, they go back to available to rent or buy.
It seems that Disney is following this model, and staggering their releases with some available only for a limited period of time.
The service is due to launch in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain on 31st March 2020.
It may be that this is due to Disney having pre-signed licensing deals prior to the service launch. Unfortunately, there was no notice given of imminent removals or additions, so it is a bit of a guessing game for service users.
The problem for Disney is that before it launched its own streaming service, it had already licensed the rights to some of its biggest titles. For example, Netflix was securing rights to stream Disney movies until ‘very recently’ and will retain those rights until the end of the deal.
Some movies will be released on Disney+ but only for a short time. Once the debut period is over, they will be removed from Disney+ and be available only on Netflix. This includes movies like Black Panther.
Iger recommends users download movies to their hard drive. He says ‘if you’re a subscriber, you can download it and put it on a device, and it will stay on the device as long as you continue to subscribe.’
I’d expect that Disney is regretting those licensing deals now. The chances of Netflix releasing the titles back to Disney early? Net-zero.