Disney is planning to launch two Netflix-like streaming services — one for sports and another for films and television shows. This is one of the boldest moves by an entertainment company to address the changing media landscape.
The stand-alone subscription services would appeal to younger audiences who are turning away from traditional media and flocking to Netflix and other digital platforms. The ESPN service, which would be available next year, is expected to feature 10,000 sporting events annually, among them Major League Baseball games.
The Disney-branded film and TV offering, set to debut in 2019, would include original content developed by Walt Disney Studios. The move comes at a time of growing unease in Hollywood about the rising clout of Netflix, which has siphoned viewers from linear television and changed consumer habits — threatening conventional business models.
Until recently, studios have been happy to license their television shows and movies to Netflix, reaping big checks. A few have taken relatively modest steps to challenge Netflix by withholding certain films and shows.
Some established media companies have taken a more aggressive approach, launching their own streaming services. HBO, CBS, Showtime, Starz — even the Tennis Channel — each has its own digital channels offered directly to consumers. At the same time, streamers such as Amazon.com are looking to get deeper into the live television business and have been on the hunt for sports rights.
The company also said that it would end its distribution agreement with Netflix for new films, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate. Instead, viewers would have to go to the Disney service to stream those movies. Shows currently produced by Disney’s Marvel Studios such as “Jessica Jones” would still be available on Netflix.