June 26, 2020
In the midst of a pay-TV carriage dispute with Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky in the United Kingdom, Disney announced it would shutter The Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Disney Junior and move them to its branded subscription streaming service Disney+, effective Oct. 1.
Disney+ launched in the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 24.
In a media statement, Disney said the direct-to-consumer service, which garnered more that 54.5 million subscribers worldwide in its first seven months, would premiere all the latest films, series and specials from the three Disney Channels, along with an expansive back catalog of Disney Channel titles in the U.K., including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Descendants 3 and Phineas and Ferb.
The company was quick to stress the switch in the U.K. was not a global move — yet.
“The Walt Disney Company remains committed to our kids channels business and continues to execute distribution agreements for Disney channels in many markets where Disney+ is also available, with the goal of giving our fans multiple entry points to our storytelling,” Disney said.
While carriage disputes between content holders and linear TV operators are common, often resulting in temporary blackouts, before a new agreement is reached, this situation is different. It marks Disney’s willingness to upend the status quo. Media Networks business segment generated 35% of the company’s revenue and 44% of its operating income in 2019.
“This represents a landmark moment,” Paolo Pescatore, TMT analyst at PP Foresight, said in a note. “The streaming revolution is gathering pace and cannot be ignored. The future is all about streaming and this latest move sets a benchmark for others to follow suit.”
Pescatore said the consolidation to Disney+ underscores the media giant’s move away from fragmentation and to better connect with new audiences and understand better their habits.
“All in one place still represents the Holy Grail for telcos,” the analyst wrote.