Streaming Video Betting Big on Legalized Sports Gambling

Live sports and gambling have a long co-dependent relationship, which is expanding beyond casinos to over-the-top video. The new field of dreams for incremental billions in revenue began in 2018 after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal anti-sports-gambling law. Wagering on pro and college sports became legal in September 2019 with both mobile and in-person betting permitted.

Online video platform FuboTV’s pending gaming unit just launched marketing partnerships with the NFL’s New York Jets and NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers — a first for an OTT platform.

“Everybody does the NFL draft. Everyone’s got a mock draft. Well, seemingly every content area has their betting expert. So, I think the key is gamification of it,” Aaron Nagler, co-founder of Cheesehead TV, told a Streaming Media panel this summer. “It’s just extending what your visit to Vegas might be to an online experience wrapped inside whatever specific content you’re creating.”

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Fox Sports became the first major media company in the U.S. to acquire a stake in sports gambling after paying $236 million for a 5% ownership of The Stars Group.

“Digital sports wagering represents a growing market opportunity that allows us to diversify our revenue streams, connect directly with consumers and expand the reach of the Fox Sports brand,” said Eric Shanks, CEO of Fox Sports.

Fox Bet Super 6 just added nearly 3 million players during the 2020 NFL season, bringing its user base to more than 4.3 million players. It claims to be the biggest free-to-play online game of its kind in the country. The platform is rolling out in states that have legalized wagering, including most recently Michigan on Jan. 26. Fox also owns a 18.5% stake in FanDuel, the daily fantasy and online sports book.

“A key differentiator for Fox Bet has been across promotional power of all of Fox’s assets (including ad-supported streaming site Tubi) to ignite the Fox Bet brand,” Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch said on an investor call earlier this year. The executive said sports gambling factors into ongoing distribution of NFL games.

“The NFL is very aware of the importance of sports wagering,” Murdoch said.

FanDuel in 2019 inked a deal with FuboTV, making it the exclusive sports book, online casino, horse racing and DFS (distributed file system) partner of the TV streaming service. The agreement was FanDuel Group’s first partnership with an online TV service aimed at expanding FuboTV’s sports offering for consumers while integrating betting data on the platform.

“We are always looking for ways to add value for consumers and enhance their premium experience with FuboTV,” said Min Kim, VP of business development at Fubo. “Gaming and sports are natural complements.”

Adam Kaplan, VP of content business and operations at FanDuel, said the company’s data analytics will change how people watch live sports on TV and the Internet.

“We can enhance the live-viewing experience by allowing cord-cutting sports fans to view the content that matters to them the most from their TV, phone, tablet or computer,” Kaplan said.

But FanDuel’s relationship with FuboTV could change as the latter branches out into its own sports gambling. The 6-year-old service last year acquired Balto Sports, a backend developer of fantasy sports gaming software, and Vigtory, an interactive sports gaming company, for its Fubo Gambling unit launching in the fourth quarter.

“The valuations around sports betting operators are so huge, why not take a punt on being one?” Andy Clerkson, a partner at Red Knot Communications, a gambling PR firm, told LegalSportsReport.com. “You could be a super-affiliate worth hundreds of millions. Or you could try and be an operator worth billions.”

The Motley Fool’s Rick Munarriz contends FuboTV can open the “spigot of sports gambling” without raising eyebrows the way Google or Disney might with regulators.

“FuboTV can go places where others can’t,” Munarriz wrote.

Disney-owned ESPN has partnerships with Caesars Entertainment, offering sport-betting-related content on ESPN and ESPN+, the brand’s SVOD platform.

“The sports betting landscape has changed, and fans are coming to us for this kind of information more than ever before,” said Mike Morrison, VP of business development at ESPN. “We are poised to expand our coverage in a big way.”

WarnerMedia Entertainment inked a deal with Caesars Entertainment to build a branded Vegas studio for its online Bleacher Report (B/R) platform.

Disney, which has sought to downplay tacit support for gambling, is changing its tune. ESPN recently launched “The Daily Wager” and “ESPN Bet.” In September, CEO Bob Chapek said the company would get more aggressive with sports wagering, including licensing the ESPN brand name to a third-party sports book for the right price.

“Let’s just say our fans are really interested in sports betting,” Chapek said at the virtual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference event. “Let’s say our partners in the leagues are interested in sports betting, so we’re interested in sports betting. Strategically, sports betting gives us the ability to appeal to a much younger sports fan who has a very strong affinity for those sports. So it’s definitely a place we want to be.”

Disney Launches Star+ Streaming Service in Latin America

Disney Aug. 31 announced it has launched its new general entertainment and sports streaming service Star+ in Latin America. The service includes local fiction and non-fiction content, in addition to live sports from ESPN, content from 20th Century Television and 20th Century Studios.

Star+ is available as standalone $10.49 monthly service ($105 annually), or as part of Combo+, a bundled offering with access to Disney+ for $13.99 monthly.

Subscribers can stream the platform on a wide selection of supported mobile and connected TV devices, up to four devices at the same time, up to 25 on-demand downloads across 10 devices, customized recommendations, the ability to set up seven different profiles, and parental controls.

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“Star+ confirms our commitment to generate relevant and varied offerings by providing our audiences with access to fully personalized content tailored to their tastes,” Diego Lerner, president of The Walt Disney Company Latin America, said in a statement.

Unique to Star+ is original content created in and for Latin America. The regionally produced originals begin streaming Aug. 31 and address themes related to Latin American popular culture in both fiction and non-fiction formats begin streaming Aug. 31.

Titles include “Santa Evita,” “No Fue Mi Culpa,” and a new season of “Impuros”; comedy, with series such as “El galán.” “La TV cambió,” “él no” and “Los protectores”; dramedy, with productions such as “Terapia alternativa” and “El encargado”; thrillers “Insania” and “Horario estelar”; biopics “Ringo and Pancho Villa.” “El centauro del norte”; and docu-style reality shows, with productions such as the new season of the renowned documentary series “Bios,” “Vidas que cambiaron la tuya.”

Star+ ushers Latin America streaming access to ESPN featuring a collection of live shows and events from European soccer leagues; UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Conference League, Spain’s LaLiga and Copa del Rey, England’s Premier League and FA Cup, Italy’s Serie A and Coppa, Portugal’s Liga Portugal Bwin, Germany’s Bundesliga and DFB Pokal cup, and The Netherlands’ Eredivisie.

The platform will also feature some of America’s top soccer competitions like CONMEBOL Libertadores, Copa do Nordeste, CONCACAF League, Copa de Oro CONCACAF, CONCACAF Champions League, CONCACAF Qualifiers Qatar 2022, Liga MX, Liga MX Femenil, BBVA Expansión MX league, Argentina’s LPF, and MLS.

The sports offering also includes the tennis Grand Slam (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open), as well as the ATP, WTA, and Abierto Mexicano tournaments; rugby with Los Pumas, URBA, Sanzaar, Seis Naciones, SLAR, and The Rugby Championship; NBA and NCAA basketball; motorsports with Formula 1 and MotoGP; boxing, UFC, and Bellator MMA; golf competitions like the PGA Tour, The Masters, The Open, PGA Championship, and Ryder Cup; cycling competition Tour de France; NFL football and NFL Red Zone; extreme sports with X Games; surfing from the WSL; LMB and MLB baseball; and hockey from the NHL.

In turn, Star+ will feature local versions of ESPN staples such as SportsCenter, as well as original productions created in Latin America, such as ESPN Knockout, and ESPN Equipo F, among others.

The platform also includes new Star+ exclusive international original productions, with star-studded casts and renowned figures behind the scenes. Some of the much-anticipated titles include comedy thriller “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gómez; “Love, Victor,” “Big Sky” and “A Teacher.” Original series that are global hits are also available, such as all seasons of “This Is Us” and “The Walking Dead,” including the double-episode finale that premieres today. Biographical drama “Pam & Tommy,” starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan, and “Y: The Last Man,” the new FX drama series based on the graphic novel by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra will also be included in the platform at a later time.

Finally, Star+ includes all 20th Century Television productions, such as award-winning series “The Simpsons,” with all seasons available in one single platform for the first time. Fans can also watch titles such as “Family Guy,” “Futurama,” “Bob’s Burgers,” and Solar Opposites premiering in late September.

Disney+ Ends Q3 With 116 Million Subscribers; Launching ‘Disney+ Day’ on Nov. 11

The Walt Disney Co. Aug. 12 reported that its branded Disney+ subscription streaming VOD service ended the third quarter (ended July 3) with 116 million subscribers — up from 57.5 million subs in the previous-year period.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek attributed the subscriber growth to launches of Pixar Animation’s Luca, and original series “Loki” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” among other programming, in core Disney+ markets.

When combined with ESPN+, Hulu and Hulu+Live TV, Disney ended the period with almost 174 million subs. Specifically, ESPN+ finished the quarter with 14.9 million subs, up from 8.5 million last year. Hulu increased its sub base to 39.1 million from 32.1 million. Online TV platform Hulu with Live TV topped 3.7 million subs from 3.4 million last year.

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“We ended the third quarter in a strong position, and are pleased with the company’s trajectory as we grow our businesses amidst the ongoing challenges of the pandemic,” Chapek said in a statement.

Disney on Nov. 11 will bow “Disney+ Day” to celebrate the two-year anniversary launch of the SVOD platform. The event will coincide with new product announcements and a company-wide cross-promotional campaign.

Disney is launching Disney+ Hotstar in Malaysia and Thailand in this quarter. The platform is currently operating in limited capacity in Japan and will switch to full operation in late October. Other launches in South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

As previously disclosed, the launch of Disney+ in Eastern Europe has been delayed to the summer of 2022 primarily to allow for an extended footprint, that includes parts of the Middle East and South Africa.

“We’re excited about the launch of Star+ [featuring more adult-themed FX content] in Latin America later this month,” Chapek said. “The direct-to-consumer business remains our top priority.”

ESPN+ Raising Monthly Subscription Fee by $1

Disney-owned ESPN+ is raising its monthly subscription fee from $5.99 to $6.99, beginning on Aug. 13. The annual fee will increase to $69.99 from $59.99. ESPN July 12 began informing subscribers via email about the price hike.

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Next to Disney+, ESPN+ has been its own rising star for The Walt Disney Co.’s aggressive direct-to-consumer push distributing original content across myriad brands, including sports. The streaming platform ended the most-recent fiscal period with 14 million subscribers — more than the top-three online TV platforms streaming live sports (Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV and Sling TV) combined.

Beginning in 2022, ESPN+ will begin streaming select NFL and NHL games and matches. The platform most-recently offered PPV access to “UFC 264 | Poirier vs. McGregor 3,” featuring Dustin Poirier beating rival Conor McGregor by TKO.

CFO McCarthy: Disney Bullish on SVOD Despite Headwinds

When Disney announced that its branded SVOD platform Disney+ had topped 103 million subscribers through the second fiscal quarter ended April 3, the tally fell below company and Wall Street projections of 108 million to 110 million, respectively.

Speaking on the May 13 fiscal call, CFO Christine McCarthy put a positive spin on the setback, saying Disney+ added subs at a faster pace in the last month of the second quarter than it did in the first two months.

“And that was despite no major market launches, a price increase in [Europe and the Middle East] and a domestic price increase towards the end of the quarter,” McCarthy said.

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She said Disney’s combined direct-to-consumer portfolio of Disney+, Hulu, Hulu with Live TV, ESPN+, Disney+ Hotstar and pending general entertainment site Star+, remains on track to achieve company guidance of 230 million to 260 million subscribers by the end of fiscal 2024.

That said, Disney is facing increased OTT headwinds going forward, including the fact that its market-leading online TV service, Hulu with Live TV, lost 200,000 subs in the quarter — a decline McCarthy attributed to seasonality of content and a $10 monthly price hike.

While Disney+ has added 30 million subs in the first half of the fiscal year, sub growth is expected to cool in the second half, due in part to ongoing COVID-19 issues in India — which accounts for a third of all Disney+ subscribers. The platform has exclusive streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket, a sport now sidelined in the world’s second most-populous country due to the pandemic.

McCarthy said about half of the 60 IPL matches that were expected to be played this season have already taken place. The remaining 30 matches on schedule have been canceled, but negotiations are underway to relocate the fields of play outside India.

“If they were able to successfully relocate the tournament, we would hopefully see an impact, especially on advertising,” McCarthy said. “It would be better than if there were no rescheduled matches. So let’s hope they are able to relocate [the tournament].”

In addition, Disney pushed back to Aug. 31  the launch of the Star+ Latin America launch. At the same time, rollouts of Disney+ in Malaysia and Thailand remain on track for June 1 and June 30, respectively. The company expects the pending launch of “Loki” on June 9, starring Tom Hiddleston, to be a strong streaming driver.

“We remain very optimistic about our [streaming] future,” McCarthy said.

Disney’s Star+ to Bow Aug. 31 in Latin America

Star+ will launch in Latin America on Aug. 31 as a standalone streaming service that will offer a full slate of ESPN content, including live events from the top leagues and sports shows; series, animated comedies, movies and documentaries; and regional and international original Star productions, including exclusive content, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution announced May 14.

“Star+ will offer a never-before-seen customized experience and will expand our connection with the different audiences,” Diego Lerner, president of The Walt Disney Company Latin America, said in a statement. The strength of the content, that will include all of ESPN, makes Star+ a unique and relevant offering with its own identity that will become a recognized digital service, independent from Disney+. Having said that, its arrival will represent a service that is complementary to Disney+ and it will consolidate The Walt Disney Company’s presence in Latin America’s streaming market. With Star+, we will also reinforce our constant commitment of over 20 years to develop, produce, and offer local content that represents the taste of consumers of the whole region, producing original content with well-known local production companies and talents, to tell stories that connect with Latin American audiences. We will do so through different genres, addressing original fiction stories, and social and historic themes that are relevant and of general interest.”

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The service will be available on Internet-connected devices and users can subscribe separately or as part of a bundled offer with Disney+.

The service includes exclusive premieres of general entertainment TV series and movies from The Walt Disney Company’s content studios, including Disney Television Studios, FX, 20th Century Studios, STAR Original Productions, National Geographic Original Productions and more, and the streaming service for live sports from ESPN. From dramas to comedies (including all seasons of “The Simpsons”) and thrillers for adults, Star+ also features exclusive original programming from the Star general entertainment brand, along with a collection of regional original productions from Latin America.

Disney, NFL and ESPN Reach Long-Term Agreement

The Walt Disney Company, ESPN and the National Football League have reached a long-term agreement that will result in ABC/ESPN joining the Super Bowl rotation, having additional playoff action, exclusive national ESPN+ matchups over the course of the agreement, and more regular-season contests including “Monday Night Football.”

The deal will also result in enhanced game quality and new schedule flexibility, according to a Disney press release.

The 10-year agreement begins with the 2023 season.

“This landmark agreement guarantees that ESPN’s passionate fan base will continue to have access to the best the NFL has to offer,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek said in a statement. “Bringing all the considerable and unique capabilities of The Walt Disney Company and ESPN to the table opens up so many opportunities across our industry-leading direct-to-consumer, broadcast, cable, linear, social and digital outlets. Special thanks to Roger Goodell and the NFL owners for continuing to embrace new ways to appeal to their fans, especially through increasingly important platforms like ESPN+.”

“When ESPN and the NFL work best together, the results are transformational for sports fans and the industry,” Jimmy Pitaro, chairman, ESPN and sports content, said in a statement. “Some of the most remarkable collaborative examples have occurred in the past 12 months and have demonstrated the extraordinary range of The Walt Disney Company that is fundamental to this agreement. There are so many exciting new components, including Super Bowls and added playoff games, new end-of-season games with playoff implications, exclusive streaming games on ESPN+, scheduling flexibility and enhancements, and much more. It’s a wide-ranging agreement unlike any we’ve reached with the NFL, and we couldn’t be more energized about what the future holds.”

“We are thrilled to extend and expand our partnership with Disney far into the future, as ESPN will continue to host cable’s most-watched series, ‘Monday Night Football,’ and ABC is returning as a Super Bowl broadcaster,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “We look forward to working with Disney as they use new platforms, including ESPN+, in innovative ways to reach even more NFL fans.”

ABC/ESPN will carry two Super Bowls (2026, 2030 seasons) as part of a rotation between the NFL’s media partners, marking the first time that an ESPN-NFL agreement includes such Super Bowl rights, according to the press release. ABC last televised the Super Bowl in February 2006 (2005 NFL season). Also, ESPN will present more playoff action, adding an annual divisional round game to its schedule, which will continue to include a wild-card matchup.

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ESPN’s increased regular-season package will include one annual exclusive national game on ESPN+. The game will take place internationally and will be aired live in the Sunday morning Eastern time zone window. Additionally, this agreement allows ESPN the opportunity to simulcast all ESPN/ABC game telecasts on ESPN+.

Also included is rights for the return of ESPN+ highlights show “NFL PrimeTime” each week on the streaming platform.

ESPN will increase its regular-season schedule by 35% — six more games per year (from 17 to 23). It will include an ESPN game on Monday nights (including three weeks with a separate game on ABC), a Saturday doubleheader the season’s final week and the Sunday morning game on ESPN+.

The added two Saturday games will take place during the final week of the regular season and will showcase matchups with playoff implications. Both of those games will be simulcast on ABC and ESPN.

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The agreement includes new elements that will enhance the caliber of the “Monday Night Football” slate, according to the press release. First, the schedule will be more flexible than in years past with the ability for the NFL to swap “a more meaningful” game into the “Monday Night Football” slot with 12 days’ notice from Week 12 on, according to the press release. Additionally, top teams will appear more often, as a result of the agreement which provides ESPN the ability to showcase any four teams at least twice, “leading to even more compelling games,” according to Disney.

With comprehensive NFL highlights rights, ESPN will continue to offer and/or develop NFL-branded programming, pre- and post-game shows, news, analysis and highlights studio shows, storytelling vehicles, digital and social content and more. The deal also includes data rights (e.g. – NFL’s Next Gen stats), according to Disney.

In addition, ESPN has once again secured rights to the annual Pro Bowl. Other key elements include opportunities for alternate telecasts, extending and expanding ESPN’s international rights (including areas in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Oceania, India), ESPN Deportes and more.

ESPN has also obtained rights to NFL Drafts, an event that has been an ESPN fixture since 1980, as part of the agreement.

The 2021 season will be the last in ESPN’s current arrangement with the NFL. ESPN and the NFL have reached a bridge agreement for 2022 — the year between when the previous agreement expires and the new 10-year extension begins. For both the 2021 and 2022 seasons, all the foundational components from the agreement expiring in 2021 will be included (e.g. – weekly “Monday Night Football” games), in addition to select elements from the new 10-year agreement. For example, in 2021, ESPN will be adding the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the regular season. For the 2022 bridge year, ESPN will showcase the two Saturday games with playoff implications on the last weekend of the season, a Sunday morning ESPN+ game and one ABC “Monday Night Football” broadcast on a week there is also an ESPN Monday Night Football telecast.

‘Mighty Ducks’ Movie Trilogy Streaming on Hulu and ESPN+ Ahead of Disney+ ‘Mighty Ducks’ Series Debut

For a limited time through May 28, the “Mighty Ducks” movie trilogy is streaming on Hulu and ESPN+ ahead of the debut of a new “Mighty Ducks” series on Disney+.

Hulu and ESPN+ subscribers can watch the original three films and upgrade to the Disney bundle — which gives subscribers access to Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ — to stream new original series “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers,” premiering March 26 on Disney+. This marks the first time movies have been programmed across the Disney bundle to support an original series premiere on one of the three streaming services.

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In the 10-episode “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers,” set in present-day Minnesota, the Mighty Ducks have evolved from scrappy underdogs to an ultra-competitive, powerhouse youth hockey team. After 12-year-old Evan Morrow (Brady Noon) is unceremoniously cut from the Ducks, he and his mom, Alex (Lauren Graham), set out to build their own team of misfits to challenge the cutthroat, win-at-all-costs culture of youth sports today. With the help of original Ducks coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), they rediscover the joys of playing just for love of the game.

The series features up-and-coming young actors, including Brady Noon, Maxwell Simkins, Swayam Bhatia, Luke Islam, Kiefer O’Reilly, Taegen Burns, Bella Higginbotham and D.J. Watts.

Steve Brill, the original creator, writer and executive producer of all three films, is back as co-creator and executive producer of the new series.

Disney’s ESPN+ (and Hulu) Streaming Big on NHL Hockey

Disney-owned ESPN and the National Hockey League March 10 announced an expansive seven-year deal, returning the professional sport to ESPN (and other Disney platforms) for the first time since 2004. Included will be 25 regular-season (2021-22) games on ESPN or ABC TV, early-round playoff series and one conference final each year, four Stanley Cup Final series on ABC and more than 1,000 games per season streaming on ESPN+.

ESPN+, with 12 million subscribers, and Hulu (39.4 million) will be home to 75 ESPN-produced exclusive telecasts per season. NHL.tv, the league’s branded SVOD service, will join the ESPN+ platform.

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The deal also includes opening-night games, the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge and other special events. The NHL’s out-of-market streaming package (NHL.TV) is also moving to ESPN+ as part of its subscription offerings. International rights in Latin America, the Caribbean and parts of Europe are also part of the deal, as are extensive highlight rights for ESPN’s digital platforms.

The NHL has aired on NBC and its cable properties for the past 16+ years.

“This agreement clearly underscores The Walt Disney Company’s leadership in the sports media landscape and serves as a blueprint for sports deals in the future,” Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and sports content for Disney, said in a statement. “We know the power of the NHL and are thrilled to welcome it back as a significant new pillar across our platforms, and we look forward to connecting more deeply and directly with some of the sports world’s most passionate fans.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the “incomparable power, reach and influence of The Walt Disney Company and ABC/ESPN” would set a new distribution standard for hockey and its most passionate and tech-savvy fans.

The first NHL game on ESPN aired on Dec. 19, 1979 — a little more than three months after the network premiered. ESPN continued to produce NHL content for the next nine years. After a break, the network became the home for the NHL from 1992 to 2004.

 

Free Ad-Supported ‘Disney+Star’ Set to Launch Feb. 23 — Outside the U.S.

Disney’s over-the-top video ecosystem is about to get larger with the scheduled Feb. 23 launch of Star within the Disney+ platform. The free AVOD tier will offer thousands of hours of movies and television programming from the company’s multiple studios, including content from the 21st Century Fox acquisition, i.e. FX, Searchlight, and 20th Century Studios, along with Star-branded exclusive originals and local programming, tailored to specific markets.

Star Plus is bowing in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, with an additional rollout slated for Latin America in June.

Disney acquired the India-based Star brand through the Fox deal, which includes existing streaming service Hotstar. The latter includes exclusive access to Indian Premier League professional cricket, a national pastime. Hotstar is responsible for 30% of Disney+’s 94.9 million global subscribers.

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Disney+ features exclusive and catalog content from Disney, Marvel (“WandaVision”), Pixar (Soul), Star Wars (“The Mandalorian” and upcoming “The Book of Boba Fett”  and “Andor” series) and National Geographic.

“Star will be integrated into Disney+, as a distinct sixth brand tile,” CEO Bob Chapek said on the Feb. 11 fiscal webcast. “And will offer easy to use parental controls to manage access to the content.”

The platform looks to expand Disney’s OTT base of 146 million subs, which includes Disney Plus, Hulu, Hulu with Live TV and ESPN+.

“We’re less than two weeks away from launch and we’re seeing tremendous excitement amongst consumers,”Chapek said.