As the curtain draws across the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic, could the term ‘Endgame’ be any more true when it comes to the future of entertainment?
It’s pretty evident to anyone that Disney are aiming to create an entertainment monopoly. You only have to look as far as the recent purchase of Twentieth Century Fox on 20th March, with data from MoffettNathanson. They state that Disney now control as much as “40 percent of the U.S. movie business (Disney and Fox films earned that share of U.S. box office revenue in 2016), as well as 40 percent of the U.S. television business”, inevitably leading them to release as many movies and TV shows as they can.
This is already happening, with Disney announcing on the 7th of May that more than twenty new Fox titles are to be released over the next eight years. With four ‘Avatar sequels being planned from 2021-2027. The company can anticipate making billions in worldwide box-office revenue, with the first Avatar movie making $2.7 billion when it was released back in 2009. For ten years Avatar was the highest grossing movie of all time, but many predict that Avengers: Endgame will inevitably take that title – distributed by none other than Disney.
This isn’t even scratching the surface on the power that Disney has now inherited. Disney now owns 70% of Hulu, and CEO Bob Iger announced on May 8th that Disney had intentions to buy the remaining 30% of Hulu’s stake from Comcast. This would mean that Disney would not only own Hulu’s live TV service, but it would also mean that they had the rights to critically acclaimed shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Act, alongside popular animated TV shows such as South Park, Futurama, and Family Guy.
With such a large library of properties, Disney’s recent announcement of their own streaming service, Disney+, was almost inevitable. The service has already been tipped as having an expansive library of Disney owned properties, with 31 animated movies and every Star Wars and Marvel movie being available at launch. New acquisition The Simpsons has also been announced as a feature, when the streaming service launches in the US on the 12th November . Taking cues from market leaders Netflix and Amazon Prime, the service will provide ‘Disney+ Original’ content, with Marvel and Star Wars-related television programmes already in development.
Previously, Disney properties appeared on other streaming services, with Marvel licenses appearing on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and, most notably, Netflix. Netflix is the most popular service available on the market, with a study by Lab42 finding that “89% of streaming video subscribers subscribe to Netflix”, so it wasn’t surprising that Disney gave Netflix the rights to a handful of Marvel Intellectual Properties (IPs), which coincidentally all became very popular. Over 2018, Netflix has cancelled every single one of their Marvel distributed television programmes, with Hannah Shaw-Williams of Screen Rant suggesting that it could be due to the announcement of Disney+, and Netflix’s reluctance to advertise a property owned by a possible competitor. If this is true, it could be rather costly for Netflix, due to the possibility that these shows could be revived and continued on Disney’s streaming service, further expanding the appeal of Disney+.
There is no doubt that Disney+ will be an absolute hit, and a great alternative to other streaming services. But there is no hiding from Disney’s attempt to establish a monopoly, leading them to own various popular properties and eliminating close and prominent competitors. As Derek Thompson of The Atlantic suggests, it could raise prices for consumers and worse, limit our choices for where we enjoy our favourite forms of entertainment.