Disney+ is Reintroducing Channel Surfing to the Masses

Everything old is new again.

POLAND - 2024/02/23: In this photo illustration, a Disney + logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Ph...
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The golden age of streaming is coming to a close; now, we witness the return of cable TV. Disney+ is the latest streaming platform to attempt a pivot to the old ways. After bringing Marvel, Star Wars, Fox, and Hulu properties together under one banner, the Disney brand is set for a major reorganization.

Per a report from The Information, the Disney app could soon be launching channels. Not unlike Pluto TV or Tubi, these always-on stations would each be dedicated to a Disney-owned property. There will be a channel that plays Star Wars movies on an endless loop, or episodes of old Spider-Man cartoons. If this sounds a lot like what cable subscribers already had with FX or Disney XD, there’s a reason for that. Disney’s pivot is nothing new; the only difference now is that these channels will all live on one specific app. Oh, and viewers will still have to pay to access even ad-supported channels, which is quite the departure from Pluto or Tubi.

Disney has yet to announce an official roll-out date, so it might be a while before we see the results of this change on the streaming platform. But given Disney’s determination to keep viewers on Disney+ for as long as possible, it makes sense that the studio is looking for ways to boost engagement in every avenue.

Disney’s new strategy could bring non-stop Marvel marathons to your home.

Marvel Studios

Studios and streamers have steadily been warming up to free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST). Putting on reruns of your favorite sitcom takes less commitment than sitting through an hour-long epic like Shogun, and sometimes viewers can’t decide what to watch, so being able to tune into whatever content has been curated for them has its appeal. Channel surfing is a lost art, but it could be on the verge of a comeback.

FAST is even good for high-concept, big-budget shows that get axed by their host streamer. When HBO canceled Westworld, it lived on briefly with Tubi and garnered a bigger audience than ever before. “The amount of people you can reach with a free, ad-supportive service is vastly higher than with a subscription service,” said Jonathan Nolan, co-creator of Westworld.

That’s not to say streamers should focus only on ad-supported content, as there’s still a high demand for original stories like Westworld and Shogun. But it’s clear the streaming model wasn’t 100% sustainable, so reintegrating elements of the old regime was inevitable. Both strategies have their strengths and weaknesses, and now that studios have tried it one way, the pendulum is swinging back. Hopefully, platforms will soon find a balance between the merits of cable and those of streaming, and viewers can be re-introduced to the joys of stumbling into a random movie on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Yes, there will be more ads, but just think of them as built-in bathroom breaks.

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