Disney+ makes play for older audiences as subscribers surge

Poised to bring its Star general entertainment brand to the UK, Disney is readying a suite of original content to satisfy its growing 95 million-strong subscriber base.

Disney+Disney is hoping to broaden its appeal among adult audiences by expanding its slate of original content through the UK launch of general entertainment brand Star, as subscribers to the Disney+ streaming platform continue to surge.

Last week, the US entertainment giant announced it had gained 94.9 million subscribers since the launch of Disney+ in November 2019, having already reported a healthy subscriber base of 86 million in December last year.

Speaking on a call with media today (17 February), The Walt Disney Company EMEA president, Jan Koeppen, called the subscriber milestone an “incredible response” that surpasses even the company’s expectations. He put it down to the brand’s content play, app design and marketing.

“But in the end it’s the content and our content from the five super-brands that are currently on the service, which are Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic,” said Koeppen.

Launching in the UK on 23 February, Star will sit alongside the aforementioned brands on the Disney+ platform. The service will roll out with 75 new TV series, 300 movies and four original commissions.  Recognisable films and series coming to the service include The Favourite, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Sons of Anarchy.

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Disney will not only be expanding its portfolio with third party content, but plans are to gradually add exclusive content to broaden the appeal of the service, explained EMEA senior vice-president and direct-to-consumer general manager, Luke Bradley-Jones.

“The intent is that Disney+ becomes the exclusive streaming home for all of these shows over time. For example, 24 is already exclusive to Disney+. For other shows like Prison Break or Desperate Housewives, they’ll become exclusive to Disney+ later this year,” said Bradley-Jones.

“For other shows like Grey’s Anatomy, over time we’ll become the exclusive streaming home of all the back seasons for those big shows, even as new seasons air with our partner channels, just like how The Simpsons works with Sky today.”

To capitalise on the surging demand for the Disney+ service, the entertainment giant is increasing the cost of its monthly subscription from £5.99 to £7.99 from 23 February.

Original content push

Upon launch the Star service will show four original commissions, with a further six confirmed. Disney is targeting 50 Star Originals from creatives across Europe by 2024, with commissions from the UK “on the cusp” of being announced. Projects span multiple genres including drama, comedy, sci-fi and documentaries.

Original content seems to be the trend amongst streaming services and broadcasters. Last month, Sky announced plans to release a new original film every week by 2022, with 30 due this year. Netflix is also on track to release at least one new original film every week in 2021.

Disney has also been slowly building up the appeal of its streaming service across multiple audiences by consolidating content into Disney+. In June, the company made content from the Disney Channel, as well as the Disney XD and Disney Junior channels, exclusive to Disney+.

In addition, several Disney-owned blockbuster films, including the forthcoming Peter Pan & Wendy and Pinocchio movies, will forego a traditional cinema release and launch directly through Disney+.