We’ve been hearing a lot about planned series for Disney’s new streaming platform, Disney+, and with every new piece of news I keep having the same thought: That sounds really expensive.
Their Star Wars and Marvel properties in particular — The Mandelorian, Loki, Scarlet Witch and Vision, and maybe Falcon/Winter Soldier and Lady Sif series — none of those seem particularly cheap. And I just might be right. Variety did a deep dive into the launch of the platform, and an agent suggests that Disney is “spending real money” on the Marvel and Star Wars content. A media analyst for RBC Capital Markets gets more specific and estimates that Disney could spend up to $500 million on content in 2019 alone. Disney Chairman Bob Iger has said that he is directing the creative teams at Disney, LucasFilm, Marvel, and Pixar to develop content for Disney+, including original movies with budgets in the $20-60 million range.
But that’s cool, because this is a quick turnaround to a profit, right? Not exactly. This is Disney’s big move into the platform wars, to position themselves to beat out Netflix and Amazon and Apple for your streaming dollars, and it is a long, long game. Veteran industry analyst Hal Vogel says: “It’s going to be years until they start to recover their investment in streaming. They will be forgoing high profit margin revenues and moving into a very competitive arena with Netflix and Amazon and probably Apple.”
My middle class morality looks at the numbers and makes a beeline for the fainting couch, but the fan in me thinks we can only gain from this ridiculous investment in streaming. Despite the huge quantities of money flying around, there is a little less pressure on direct-to-streaming content than there is for tentpole films, and so creatives can take bigger risks, which sometimes has terrible results, but often leads to exhilarating breakthroughs in storytelling. I’m cautiously excited for this.