Disney’s plan to take over the (entertainment) world takes off in just over a week, when Disney+ officially launches. The streaming service will be heavily stocked, with a massive catalog of vintage titles, original series, and plenty of Star Wars and Marvel movies available on day one. And now Avatar is joining the party.
James Cameron’s blockbuster, which turns ten in December, will be available exclusively on Disney+, the company and director announced on Friday. Avatar will be the first title Disney acquired when it bought 21st Century Fox in March to make it to the service, but it won’t be the last. Expect plenty of other Fox titles to wind up on Disney+ over the coming months and years, the culmination long term strategy from the House of Mouse.
The Fox acquisition is the biggest in Disney history, but it’s also just the latest in a line of billion dollar deals. Disney bought Pixar for $7.4 billion in 2006, Marvel Entertainment for $4.24 billion in 2009, and Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. Making new Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars movies was part of the calculus, to be sure, but growing its library of content with titles people want to watch is more important to winning the streaming wars.
Disney wants to build a service that can take on and, the hope is, ultimately defeat Netflix. It’s rival has a huge head start in terms of a subscriber base, but in terms of content, Disney’s homegrown library combined with these acquisitions give it an overwhelming advantage.
Disney can put a ton of classic movies people want to watch on its service and, because it owns them outright, it won’t be susceptible to the whims of other companies and bids from rivals in the same way Netflix is.
Disney is one of those rivals, and it’s already signaled that it will be all too happy to let deals putting Fox content on rival streamers expire, as it did with Marvel content, before moving it to Disney+. This strategy is also sadly being applied to theaters that want to show older Fox titles.
Disney’s success in building a content library and luring in subscribers with all manner of deals and promotions paints a pretty grim picture for those rivals and, arguably, for the viewing public, as a bigger and bigger chunk of popular culture comes under the control of one company.