As soon as Disney announced it would be entering the streaming game with its own service to compete with the likes of Netflix, it was obvious that the Mouse would be a force to be reckoned with in this digital area. Disney's various popular IPs give it a major value proposition. Marvel, Pixar and now the forthcoming addition of the Fox stable are a big deal. However, the existing films in perhaps Disney's most important property, Star Wars, will not be found on the platform in the beginning due to licensing rights. Speaking to investors about the service, Disney CEO Bob Iger explained that this omission will be communicated from the start:
The marketing will make clear that it's not going to be on there. But Star Wars movies that come out in 2019 and later, you'll find them there.
While moviegoers now associate Star Wars with Disney, the marketing for the streaming service will make it clear that subscribers seeking to watch A New Hope through The Last Jedi will have to look elsewhere. In this manner, Disney will not be misleading consumers into thinking that they will be able to marathon all of the Star Wars films on the service, only to find out that those movies aren't even on it. Star Wars films released in and after 2019, however, will eventually be housed on the service, so presumably J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode IX will be the first in the franchise to make its way to Disney's as-yet-unnamed streaming platform.
As Variety notes, the lack of Star Wars on the platform will be because the other Star Wars films have all been licensed to other distributors. Rogue One and The Last Jedi are currently on Netflix, but won't be after 2018 ends. In 2016, Disney signed an eight-year deal with TBS that gave TBS and TNT exclusive cable rights to the Star Wars movies. This means that Disney can't put them on its streaming service until the deal expires or until it comes to terms to purchase the rights back from Turner, a possibility that so far Turner has not been receptive to.
Even with a dearth of Star Wars at the outset, Disney still feels that it has a strategy to attract consumers by leveraging its powerful brands for content and offering a compelling value for consumers, as Bob Iger said:
Our first priority is going to be reaching our core Disney fan. We want to walk before we run when it comes to volume of content... We have to put enough on to make sense from a price-to-value relationship perspective.
With a lower volume of content than the one-size fits all Netflix, Bob Iger suggested that Disney's service may be a lower cost alternative to the streaming giant. It sounds like Disney plans on building volume on the service slowly and first appealing to true Disneyphiles. Upcoming films like Dumbo and Captain Marvel as well as made for the service originals the Lady and the Tramp remake will all make up for the lack of Star Wars. There will still be some exciting new Star Wars fans though at some point, with the upcoming live-action series from Jon Favreau. It is possible that that wildly expensive series may even arrive on Disney's streaming service before Episode IX does.
Disney's streaming service is expected to launch at the end of 2019. Keep an eye on CinemaBlend for all the latest from Disney and the galaxy far, far away and to see all of the biggest movies still to come this year, check out our premiere guide.