Touting tremendous success in registering subscribers around the world to its Disney+ and other premium streaming services, Disney revealed in tandem with an Investors Day briefing last week that it will continue to advance a direct-to-consumer (DTC) content-first business model going forward.

The company also disclosed an inevitable plan to begin raising fees shortly.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that Disney’s collective streaming brands including Disney+ (86.8 million), ESPN+ (11.5 million) and Hulu (38.8 million) have garnered more than 137 million global subscriptions, and the company is working to launch a new service called Star.

The Disney+ subscriber tally has greatly exceeded company and industry predictions since its launch in November 2019.

Disney announced that it now expects its streaming services to hit 300-350 million total subscriptions by fiscal 2024, as it continues to feed the flow of content offerings. The company’s roadmap for Disney+ alone now calls for more than 100 titles per year, adding something new every week.

Plans call for 10 Marvel series and 10 Star Wars series over the next few years, on its streaming platform. In addition, 15 series and 15 feature-length live-action films will be added. Some of the content originally planned for theatrical release will now debut directly on Disney+, in addition to a slate of content still planned for theatrical and linear releases.

To help pay for all this, Disney said it will raise pricing beginning March 26, 2021 on Disney+ to $7.99 per month in the United States or $79.99 per year. The service currently runs $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year. At the same time, the company’s bundle offer of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ will be priced at $13.99 per month.

The company revealed an agreement with Comcast to bring Disney+ and ESPN+ to Comcast’s X1 set-top boxes and Flex streaming adapters beginning in Q1 2021. The giant cable MSO earlier began offering Hulu over the devices last spring, and Disney said Hulu customers soon will get the opportunity to also subscribe to ESPN+ within the Hulu user interface.

Elsewhere in the world, Disney unveiled plans for a new international streaming platform called Star as its answer to Hulu in other regional markets. Star is an outgrowth of the Disney+ Hotstar in India and Indonesia. The new offering will be included as part of Disney+ in select additional international markets around the world. Another more sports-oriented offering will launch as a separate streaming service in Latin America as Star+.

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Disney has said the Star brand will carry thousands of hours of television programming and movies from various Disney studios, including Disney Television Studios, FX, 20th Century Studios, 20th Television. This will be enhanced on the local level with programming catering to the individual markets served. The company will implement parental controls to continue the company’s family friendly sensitivities.

As for new DTC content in the works, Disney revealed that Disney+ also plans to launch new shows from Disney Animation and Pixar series. Slated new Star Wars content will include a third season of the hit series The Mandalorian, along with Andor, starring Diego Luna reprising his character from the Rogue One movie. Another new SW offering will be Ahsoka, played by Rosario Dawson, from the Clone Wars movie and a recent appearance in Season 2 of The Mandalorian. Hayden Christenson was also announced as returning in the role of Darth Vader for the forthcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

Other Lucasfilms titles in the works include: Rangers of the New Republic, Lando, The Acolyte and The Bad Batch.

As for Marvel plans, Disney+ will add TV series and a TV special including Secret Invasion, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Armor Wars, starring Don Cheadle; Ironheart, which continues the Iron Man legacy with new characters; and I Am Groot, a spin-off of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Director James Gunn will also deliver a Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, that will be created during the production of Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3.

In addition, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon will be available on Disney+ with Premier Access in most Disney+ markets, simultaneous with a release in theaters, on March 5, 2021.

Other upcoming titles planned for Disney+ DTC debuts include Peter Pan & Wendy, Pinocchio with Tom Hanks; and Disenchanted, a sequel to Enchanted, starring Amy Adams.

Among the planned theatrical releases still in play is Black Widow.

Further information on Disney’s plans is available here.

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By Greg Tarr

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