The entertainment giant acquired an extra 42 percent stake in BAMTech, an interactive content and streaming video company that it co-owns with Major League Baseball. Disney will use BAMTech’s proprietary technology to create its two new platforms; first up in 2018 will be a streaming ESPN network, while a Disney-branded platform will debut in 2019.
The latter network will become “the exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 theatrical slate,” the company announced.
While the ESPN deal is significant, it’s also expected; the sports network has been losing viewers with the decline in subscription cable, and offering an a la carte option for cord-cutters who want to watch sports is an obvious partial solution.
The Disney-branded network, however, is a major development for the company. Disney CEO Bob Iger made a deal with Netflix back in 2012 that put Disney’s content on the streaming service starting on January 1, 2016, but studios are now desperate to own the rights to stream their own intellectual property. CBS has its own streaming network, which will host the new Star Trek series, while Netflix just bought Mark Millar’s comic book company to provide new IP to mine.
As a result of this new decision, Disney’s movies will leave Netflix in 2019. It had been previously rumored that Disney might buy Netflix — or vice versa.
The companies still might do business together, though; in a conference call with journalists, Iger said that while Disney and Pixar films will definitely be exclusive to the Disney app, it’s possible that Star Wars and Marvel films could continue to be licensed to Netflix or another third-party distributor.