The Disney+ streaming service is due to roll out in the United States on November 12 - but there's as yet no date for the U.K. release. Disney+ is a corporate priority for the House of Mouse, seen as key to their remaining competitive in the age of streaming services. In fact, that was a major reason for the Disney/Fox acquisition, with Disney keen to gain access to the Fox vault in order to increase their content library.
Disney+ is due to launch in the United States on November 12, but worldwide release will be staggered. November will see Disney+ come to the Netherlands, the only part of Europe with a firm launch date, as well as Australia and New Zealand. The rest of Europe - including the U.K. - can expect Disney+ in late 2019 or early 2020; Asia-Pacific will get Disney+ between fall 2019 and fall 2020, while Latin America sees the service arrive in fall 2020. By the end of 2021, Disney+ will have gone global.
Naturally, this staggered rollout is causing quite a bit of frustration for people who'd love to subscribe to the Disney+ streaming service, but just happen to live in the wrong country. It's become a particularly controversial topic in the United Kingdom, where fans of franchises like Marvel and Star Wars have seen all the Disney+ marketing, and don't want to miss out. What's going on?
Sky/Disney's Previous Licensing Is Delaying Disney+
The first hurdle for a U.K. release of Disney+ is Sky. Sky is one of Europe’s largest media companies, with nearly 23 million customers across five countries, including Britain, Germany and Italy. Disney had aggressively pursued ownership of Sky as part of their Fox acquisition, but in the end Comcast won that particular part of the competition. That was unfortunate for the House of Mouse, not least because Disney already had contracts with Sky. These aren't due to expire until next year (h/t FilmStories), which makes an immediate launch more difficult. It's generally assumed that Disney will end most of these, and pull all its content from what will become a rival when Disney+ is launched. Sky has reportedly already struck content deals with other studios in anticipation of Disney's actions.
Not everything might be so simple, though. Disney is believed to have inherited some other deals from Fox, and those will likewise need to expire before Disney regain control of their content. In some cases, it's even possible that Disney will be forced to try to renegotiate fresh agreements with less restrictive exclusivity terms.
European Union Legislation Means Disney+ Will Face Other Issues
The next hurdle is an EU content quota for streaming services. In October 2018, the EU legislated to create a standard, EU-wide content quota that means a streaming service has to produce a minimum of 30 percent of content in European countries in order to be available there. Individual EU Member States have two years to translate this into domestic law, and it's notable that they have the option of creating local quotas of up to 40 percent. Disney historically has quite a small footprint in Europe, which means this is a major issue.
Fortunately, one thing that won't be a complicating factor is Brexit. Co-production agreements with European partners are governed by the Council of Europe, not the European Union, and the U.K. intends to stay a member of that body. That means U.K. products will still count as "European works" in terms of the content quota. This explains why Disney has just struck an unprecedented 10-year deal with Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, to lease 20 stages plus other facilities, with the aim of producing everything from Star Wars to Marvel. It's clearly been done in part to meet the content quotas.
When Will Disney+ Release In The U.K.?
Disney is yet to announce an official release date for Disney+ in the U.K., but it's generally believed to be due in early 2020. Interestingly, in the U.K. and the Philippines, Disney currently offer a limited streaming service called Disney Life, which is even pre-installed on some smart TVs. It's unclear whether Disney+ will replace Disney Life, or whether the two will run side-by-side; only time will tell.