Disney is to launch a new subscription based streaming service, DisneyLife, in the UK. The service differs from rivals such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and NowTV by supplementing video with digital books and music. However the monthly fee is set at £9.99, higher than Netflix and Amazon at £5.99 and NowTV at £6.99. Content will be taken from Disney and Pixar libraries but importantly will not include Star Wars or Marvel titles but will include Pixar titles such as the ‘Toy Story’ series. The service is family oriented and will allow parents to set controls on children’s usage, including separate viewing caps on weekends and week days. Up to six streams are supported per subscription and once a month a free Disney app can also be downloaded. From launch the service will also allow users to watch and read content in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. Although not available at launch, Disney also plans to roll out the service to France, Germany, Spain and Italy. A US launch is not on the books due to existing rights deals, however if DisneyLife proves successful an American version could service after current content contracts expire.
The impending DisneyLife launch is part of a growing trend for content owners to take their IP directly to consumers. While niche sport programming from WWE and MMA has achieved success with a direct consumer relationship, it has taken longer for the digital market to mature enough to allow mainstream content owners to supplement traditional distribution methods in this way. Despite initial problems with pricing and bundling, HBO has managed to balance both a standalone service and a linear TV channel. HBO chose to give linear subscribers free access to the online service, creating a TVE experience. A key challenge was managing the use of VPNs to bypass geolocking. Disney is likely to experience similar problems especially given the large number of languages available on the service and the broad geographical region this supports. Furthermore, DisneyLife is also not just a SVoD service but more of a subscription ecosystem, clearly differentiating itself from other services by being family-oriented and supplying a broader medium of Disney media, including music and ebooks. This is especially important given parental concerns about allowing children to binge view. Parental controls, combined with the multiple streams, and availability of audio and written content should help ensure the service can receive enough usage to justify the relatively high £9.99 price tag.