By Frank Pallotta, CNN Business
It sounds crazy to say this, but Disney could really use a hit right now.
Disney reported Wednesday that its streaming growth slowed dramatically last quarter, sending shares of the company down as much as 8.5% on Thursday morning. No surprise there: Disney’s media empire may stretch to parks, cable networks and films, but right now its stock is tied to the success of its streaming business — especially Disney+.
After keeping the company afloat during the pandemic, when theme parks and movie theaters were forced to close, the company’s streaming business has slowed. Wall Street is concerned, as the company’s stock slide after Wednesday earnings release showed.
Disney+ really needs a subscriber boost, and the best way to do that is by lining up some hits from its stockpile of beloved blockbuster brands that can nab new consumers.
Marvel series like “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Loki” have come and gone. Season three of “The Mandalorian” is still a ways off. Films like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals” are making pit stops in theaters instead of being released immediately on the service.
Fear not: for, behold, Disney+ is bringing consumers good tidings of potential hit shows and films this holiday season that could change the narrative. The biggest of which comes from a galaxy far, far away.
Bounty hunters, archers and a dash of magic
“The Book of Boba Fett,” a new Star Wars series, will premiere exclusively on the service on December 29. This is exactly the type of hit that Disney+ needs right now.
“Boba Fett” follows the franchise’s infamous bounty hunter as he navigates the criminal underworld of the Star Wars universe. If that sounds familiar, it should. Disney+ was built on the back of another bounty hunter with “The Mandalorian.” (It helped that he had a cute little green buddy, Baby Yoda, tagging along.)
Marvel series are another thing that Disney+ can rely on. The next one arrives on the service November 24.
“Hawkeye,” starring Jeremy Renner as the titular Avenger archer, is the latest in Marvel’s Disney+ series. Marvel, in case you just landed on Earth, is the biggest blockbuster franchise in all of Hollywood, so another series from the studio is likely a surefire hit for Disney+.
Then there’s “Encanto.” The Disney animated film will play in theaters over Thanksgiving, but not for long. The film, which tells a story of a Colombian girl who comes from a magical family, has music from “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and debuts on Disney+ around Christmas.
That’s a pretty quick turnaround, which allows the film to make some money at the box office before trying to nab new subscribers who want to enjoy the family film from their homes over the holidays.
But that’s not all for Disney+. Far from it.
Disney+ After Dark
Disney dazzled fans and investors last December with its investor day presentation that went over everything in works for the company’s film, TV and streaming units. There was, uh, quite a lot.
Disney said in December that it has multiple shows for Disney+, such as a Star Wars series focused on Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Marvel series about Ms. Marvel and She Hulk, as well as a live action Pinocchio film starring Tom Hanks.
The company is also going out of its way this week to keep Disney+ in the forefront of people’s minds by promoting “Disney+ Day,” which on Friday will celebrate the company’s second anniversary. That includes telling consumers about all the new content that comes with the celebration such as “Shang-Chi” and a new remake of “Home Alone.”
Although there’s plenty in the works for Disney+, it may have to broaden its audience to a slightly older demographic if it really wants to compete with the Netflix’s of the world.
Disney as a brand screams “family-friendly,” but Disney as a company has multiple units that produce content that skews towards an older demographic, from 20th Century Studios to FX.
In the United States, Disney has kept most of its more mature content on Hulu, its other streaming service but it could help the company’s streaming efforts if Disney+ becomes a one stop shop for all your streaming needs.
A service — a “Disney+ After Dark,” if you will — with content not just for a young audience, but also has more shows and films for older audiences could take advantage of Disney’s deep vault.
And bear in mind that Disney+ already does this overseas with its “Star” general entertainment offering, so the company has that card to play — at least in its biggest market: the United States.
But will the company actually do this? It’s hard to say.
Disney is very protective of its brand, and having R-rated content like “Deadpool” offered next to “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” in the Disney+ queue may dislodge the pillar that the company has been built on since 1923.
Yet, if it wants to avoid worrying Wall Street with soft subscriber numbers and conquer the streaming world, it may have to consider tinkering with the keys to its magic kingdom of hits.
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