The Walt Disney Company’s new direct-to-consumer streaming service will be called Disney+ and will include new "Star Wars" prequel series.
Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger revealed the service’s name today during a live audio webcast of Disney’s fiscal full year and fourth quarter 2018 financial results. Disney+ is scheduled to launch in the U.S. in late 2019.
Iger gave more insight into the kinds of movies and TV shows the Disney+ service will offer. They’ll include a live-action remake of "Lady and the Tramp" and multiple "Star Wars" TV series, such as a prequel to the movie "Rogue One" featuring lead actor Diego Luna. There will also be a series based on the Marvel Comics character Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston.
Disney said last year that it plans to launch its own streaming service in 2019 and would pull its first-run movies from Netflix to put them on a Disney-branded service.
"Star Wars" is one of Hollywood’s most profitable franchises. Since 2015, Disney has released two of three planned movies based around characters originated by director George Lucas in 1977, two standalone films, and has announced a slew of other spin-off projects.
The new projects join a slate of films and series planned for Disney+ that includes new stories set in the worlds of Disney•Pixar’s Monsters Inc. and Disney Channel’s High School Musical, as well as a galaxy far, far away. Earlier this year, Lucasfilm revealed that Emmy-nominated producer and actor Jon Favreau will write and executive produce The Mandalorian for Disney+. The live-action series, which is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order, is currently in production with a lineup of directors that include Deborah Chow (Marvel’s Jessica Jones), Rick Famuyiwa (Dope), Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels), Bryce Dallas Howard (Solemates) and Taika Waititi (Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok).
Disney+ "will feature elegant navigation, personalization and content segmented primarily by our core brands," Iger said on a call with investors, allowing users to quickly get to content tied to specific brands, such as Marvel, Pixar and soon, National Geographic.
While Disney+ will feature family entertainment, Hulu will be packed with programming created by the soon-to-be acquired Fox TV studio, Iger said. Speaking on Bloomberg TV, Disney’s CEO said he would be interested in acquiring the rest of Hulu, if co-owners Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. want to sell.
Iger also said he didn’t anticipate the company’s push into streaming would lead to major changes in how Disney releases films, which typically run in theaters for several months before they come to television.
As part of its earnings report, Disney said it wrote down the value of its investment in Vice Media, by $157 million.
Vice, which began as a punk magazine in Montreal in 1994, has over the years grown into an unwieldy business with 3,000 employees across 39 offices around the world and units devoted to digital, music, film and television production, a cable TV network and news reporting. Along the way, it raised billions in funding from the likes of Disney, 21st Century Fox and TPG, boosting its valuation to $5.7 billion.
And while Disney is gearing up to launch its standalone streaming service next year, the company plans to continue investments in streaming platform Hulu.
Bob Iger noted plans for expanding internationally while building up Hulu’s original content slate.
It’s unclear if Hulu will follow in Netflix’s footsteps and invest in more foreign original series for its international subscribers, but Iger said those conversations will happen once the company takes majority control of Hulu.