Disney will dump its exclusive Netflix deal in 2019, and launch its own streaming service

Disney is making a big change in strategy, and one of the first things to go is its exclusive movie deal with Netflix.

On Tuesday, the company announced it would launch its own ad-free Disney-branded streaming service (in addition to an ESPN one). This Netflix-like service will become the “exclusive home” for subscription streaming of Disney and Pixar’s live action and animated movies, starting in 2019.

That is bad news for Netflix, which saw its marquee movie deal with Disney come online this year. Starting in 2017, Netflix became the exclusive subscription streaming home of all new Disney movies. Now it has been partially replaced by Disney’s own ambitions.

Netflix may still get to keep Star Wars and Marvel, however. On Disney’s earnings call, CEO Bob Iger clarified that the company hasn’t decided how to deal with the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, and said it could choose to continue to licence those movies to a service like Netflix.

But movies branded “Disney” or “Pixar” will for sure be part of the new Disney service, and be dropped from Netflix’s exclusive deal in 2019. That means you likely won’t be able to stream Disney movies on Netflix at that point, unless a new deal gets brokered.

Why the shift?

Disney thinks that the future of entertainment will be defined by “direct relationships between content creators and consumers,” it said in a statement.

In other words: No more middle men. Disney needs to own its own streaming services. To help do so, Disney announced it will take a majority stake in streaming tech company BAMTech (which is already owned 33% of). Disney CEO Bob Iger described this as a “big strategic shift” on CNBC.

This all might be one reason that Netflix made its first-ever acquisition on Monday: a cult comic-book publisher called Millarworld that has been responsible for Kick-Arse, Kingsman, and Old Man Logan. Netflix might see a world where intellectual property powerhouses like Disney become a lot more reluctant to make deals.

Here’s the relevant piece of Disney’s statement:

“The new Disney-branded service 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, which includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and The Lion King from Disney live-action, along with other highly anticipated movies. Disney will also make a significant investment in an annual slate of original movies, TV shows, short-form content and other Disney-branded exclusives for the service. Additionally, the service will feature a vast collection of library content, including Disney and Pixar movies and Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television programming.”

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