In November 2019, Disney launched its juggernaut streaming service, Disney Plus. This year was supposed to be the explosion of the streaming wars. However, this year has halted that war as companies are trying to figure out how to get their product in front of consumers in a time where wallets are running lighter, and restrictions have been placed upon the traditional means of distribution as a result of a pandemic.
As a result of thousands of layoffs, releasing many of their films to Disney+ subscribers, and corporate restructuring, Disney has had a rough year but has somehow not gone into the red.
This year’s investor day aims to offer insight into what the company anticipates for the year ahead and how executives can keep the company in the year. Here’s what I’m expecting Disney to talk about.
How Will Disney Adjust Its Schedule?
I imagine that The Walt Disney Company will be looking at WarnerMedia’s recent move to release its entire 2021 slate on HBO Max simultaneously with a theatrical release, and I believe that Disney will be more selective than WarnerMedia here.
So, I think that for 2021, Disney will be making big deals here. I believe that Disney is not content with WarnerMedia having exclusive streaming rights to 20th Century Studios’ entire catalog until 2022 and that they will pay top dollar to gain 20th Century Studios content for streaming to Disney+ and Hulu this year in a push to boost subscribers to both platforms. I imagine the split here being that anything PG-13 and above goes to Hulu and anything lower goes to Disney+.
For Searchlight Pictures, I think the move Disney will make here will be to make Nomadland, The French Dispatch, Antlers, and The Night House available via premium video on demand after a month or so of theatrical distribution.
Marvel Studios’ current slate is likely to have a similar structure, with titles streaming a month later on Disney+.
As for Walt Disney Pictures themselves, I think this is where they’ll make the most significant moves. Currently, I am of the mind that this is where Disney will emulate HBO Max’s choice to have a simultaneous theatrical and Disney+ release. The only thing I could see standing in the way of this theory would be that Disney might opt to lock titles like Luca, Jungle Cruise, and The Beatles: Get Back behind Disney+ Premier Access, as I imagine these titles will be sleeper hits for Disney.
What Will Hulu Add?
One of the most prominent question marks regarding this event is Hulu. Disney owns a controlling interest in the company (67% of this writing, with Comcast owning the remaining shares). The service became part of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International (now Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution). As a result, their Scripted Originals team reports to Walt Disney Television and ABC Entertainment as of July 2019, Searchlight Pictures and FX were added last November, the company has no CEO with Kelly Campbell reporting to Kevin Mayer, the Chairman of DMED, and the restructuring of the company was in order for Disney proper to add Originals to Hulu and Disney+.
My thoughts are that Hulu will enter into a transitory period, with Disney buying Comcast’s remaining stake in the company and will aim to retain the NBCUniversal license by 2024, which is the earliest Disney can obtain Comcast’s stake at a fair market value and when NBCUniversal’s exclusivity deal will expire.
What About Originals?
I don’t have any insider information, but I believe it would be a straightforward guess that Disney will reveal premiere dates for WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season Two, Monsters at Work, What If…?. Star Wars: The Bad Batch, offer first looks at Diary of a Future President Season Two, Doogie Kamealoha M.D., The Mysterious Benedict Society, the untitled Cassian Andor series, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, Just Beyond, and the untitled Chip ‘n’ Dale series as well as some surprises.
When Will Disney Parks Reopen?
While their consumer division has seen growth, Disney Parks have been a sore spot in 2020. This year, the company has lost about $6.9 billion due to Disneyland being closed since March, Hong Kong’s Disneyland closing multiple times, leaving Walt Disney World as the only Disney Park open at the time of this writing, albeit under Florida’s limited capacity rules.
Disney can’t do much for Disneyland, as California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered South California residents to stay at home until at least December 28th, something Disney isn’t happy about and might make it a talking point on stage.
At this point, Disney is currently planning on laying off 32,000 jobs in their parks and resorts by the end of Q1 2021. I don’t think Disney will highlight this bad news or increase these numbers here, but I think Disney will include indices for 2021 plans for Disney Parks.
What About The Numbers?
I imagine Disney will take every opportunity to highlight new subscribers to Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, how content has fared, watch time, and all the good news here.
This year, Disney shares have increased 6% and are slowly transitioning back to normal. That said, it is no match for Netflix’s share spike of 55%.
Following, I will be intrigued in seeing how Wall Street and Hollywood proper react to the news.