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Disney+ streaming service: Release date, price, shows and movies to expect

Disney's getting ready to give Netflix a run for its money, and its takeover of Fox helps Disney+ take shape. But will the service be worth it for you?

Marvel Studios 2018, artist: Ryan Meinerding

Disney is betting big on its 2019 streaming service called Disney+. 

Bob Iger, Disney's CEO, has called the streaming service the company's "biggest priority" for 2019 -- and that's in the same year Disney closed its $71.3 billion takeover of 21st Century Fox. We're already seeing Disney reshape Fox the same week they officially merged -- layoffs have hit executives in Fox's film division and its innovation lab, which focused on emerging technologies.

Meanwhile, Disney is ending its streaming deal with Netflix so it can launch its own subscription platform as the exclusive streaming home for Disney movies, TV shows and other original programming. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, for example, will depart Netflix in April so it can re-emerge with a new season on Disney+. 

Much of the original programming planned for Disney+ leans into the company's franchises like Marvel and Star Wars. And it be the only place to stream the company's new movies after they premiere in theaters, starting with Captain Marvel. Not only that, Iger revealed in March that the service will house the entire Disney "vault" of motion pictures "fairly soon" after launch. 

If you're feeling monthly fee fatigue, sorry, but that's the direction the entertainment business is headed. Netflix trots out original shows and movies on a near daily basis. CBS is pumping its CBS All Access service full of Star Trek shows and other original programs. (Note: CBS is CNET's parent company.) NBCUniversal, HBO-owner WarnerMedia and Apple are all building their own streaming services. Even DC Entertainment now has its DC Universe streaming service full of shows, movies and comics.

And then there's Hulu, which is controlled by Disney after the takeover of 21st Century Fox closed late Tuesday. Once Disney+ launches, you'll need to remember to subscribe to Hulu too if you want Disney's edgier material, like four planned Marvel cartoons aimed at adults. Disney+ is where all the company's family-friendly content will live. 

So is the 2019 Disney+ streaming service something worth paying for? The details that we know so far are below, but basically: If you love Star Wars or Marvel movies, you may find yourself considering yet another subscription before the year is out.

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What's the Disney streaming service?

Disney+ streaming service will be a competitor to video streaming services like Netflix. The company is even hiring from Netflix's ranks: Disney named former Netflix executive Tehmina Jaffer as a senior vice president for Disney+ in March, saying she would coordinate all the Disney groups making original content exclusively for the service.

Customers will be able to subscribe with a still-unannounced monthly fee to get access to TV shows, movies and other content from the world of Disney. 

Disney's other streaming services -- Hulu and sports-focused ESPN+ -- will run on the same tech platform so you can subscribe to them with the same password and credit card info. But Disney plans for all three to be individual subscriptions. 

ESPN+ will, clearly, focus on sports. Hulu is expected to continue to stream content from three of the broadcast networks and its own original series, like The Handmaid's Tale and Castle Rock. Hulu will also be where Disney streams its more adult-oriented fare. It's where a new Marvel collection of grown-up animated series will stream, and it's likely where Deadpool-like content will live now that Disney owns Fox. 

Disney+ is supposed to include all of Disney's family-friendly fare. It'll have content from Disney proper, Marvel, Lucasfilm (so: Star Wars), Pixar and National Geographic.

When's the release date? 

You'll be waiting even longer than Avengers: Endgame for this. Disney says it's shooting for a release in late 2019. 

The company is expected to reveal many of the specifics about Disney+ on April 11, when it'll hold an investor meeting to detail all its streaming plans, including a "first look" at Disney+ and some of the programming it's producing for it.

How much will it cost?

Disney hasn't yet announced pricing for its streaming service, but expect it to cost less than Netflix

Iger said in November 2017 that his company's service price will reflect the "fact that it will have substantially less volume" but plans to make up for it with high-quality programming from across its entertainment empire. More than a year later, however, Iger said the company still hadn't decided what it'll charge. 

clone

The Clone Wars is getting a new season, exclusively on Disney's upcoming streaming service.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

How will this affect Disney stuff on Netflix?

Disney will mostly disappear from Netflix by late 2019. 

Since 2016, Netflix has been the first place to watch Disney's movies with a subscription. That deal meant Netflix was the go-to place for the biggest US blockbusters of the last three years. The top two movies of 2017 and the top three movies of 2016 and 2018 were all from Disney, and Netflix has been the place to binge them all. 

But Disney decided against renewing that Netflix deal as it plotted its own competitor. Starting with Disney's 2019 slate of movies, all those films are destined for Disney+. That means Captain Marvel, the first movie Disney is releasing theatrically in 2019, will be the first movie Netflix misses out on. It also means that Mary Poppins Returns should be the final Disney movie that will have some type of release window on Netflix.

Netflix's Marvel Defenders shows are complicated, though. Netflix has put out five original series based on Defenders characters in partnership with Disney. In 2018, Netflix canceled three of them: Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Then in 2019, Netflix canceled the last two: The Punisher and Jessica Jones. Kevin Mayer, the Disney executive in charge of Disney+, has said Disney+ could possibly revive the canceled shows. But the terms of their original deal could restrict Disney+ from any revivals until 2020, according to a report. 

A third, and now final, season of Jessica Jones is still set to arrive on Netflix sometime in 2019. But after that, all we know about the future of these characters is Marvel Television chief Jeph Loeb teasing fans that the characters will continue in some form. But the only thing for sure about that form right now: It won't involve Netflix.

Shows and movies: What will I be able to watch?

Disney+ will include content from the Disney brand itself, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars and National Geographic. In fact, it's organizing the service's app by those exact categories. Generally speaking, Disney plans to make Disney+ the catch-all for its family-friendly content, while Hulu -- which Disney controls after its takeover of 21st Century Fox -- will be its subscription for edgier, more adult-oriented fare. 

Disney+ will be the only place you can stream all of Disney's theatrically released movies starting with Captain Marvel and the rest of its 2019 slate. It will also house the "entire Disney motion picture library," according to Iger, including all the classic animated movies in what the company calls the Disney vault. And of course, the company is developing a slate of original, exclusive shows and movies for the service.

Original exclusives include a Star Wars prequel series based on Rogue One and starring Diego Luna, who played Cassian Andor in the original movie. Disney also confirmed the service is developing a live-action Marvel series focused on Loki, a character from the Avengers, which will star Tom Hiddleston reprising the role.   

Disney+ will have original behind-the-scenes documentaries, too. The company also has started to make deals for original programming that doesn't already fall into one of its established brands. In January, Disney+ ordered a 10-episode series called Diary of a Female President. The show follows a 12-year-old Cuban-American girl and the highs and lows of her middle-school life en route to becoming the US commander in chief.

Out of the vast library of Disney's past catalog, Disney+ is supposed to offer "thousands of hours" of content, but we don't know yet exactly what could be excluded.  

Even though all of Disney's movies will stream exclusively on Disney+, the company doesn't plan to debut any of its big-budget motion pictures on the service. Unlike Netflix's so-called day-and-date approach, which releases most of its films on big screens and on its streaming service at the same time, Disney plans for its tentpole movies, like those in its Star Wars franchise, to run their course in theaters before making them available with a digital subscription. 

We do know the service will include shows and movies such as: 

  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars new season (exclusive to this service).
  • Marvel movies, starting with 2019's Captain Marvel.
  • Star Wars films, starting with 2019's Episode 9.
  • Pixar films, starting with 2019's Toy Story 4.
  • A live-action, big-budget Star Wars TV series called The Mandalorian, being developed by Jon Favreau.
  • A Star Wars Rogue One prequel TV series, starring Diego Luna.
  • A live-action Marvel series focused on Avengers character Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston. 
  • Possible Marvel series that could star Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), according to Variety.
  • Possible Marvel series that would team up Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie), according to Slashfilm.
  • A possible What If-themed Marvel series that would imagine what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would look like if different events took place. According to a Slashfilm report, the series would be overseen by MCU head Kevin Feige and would be an animated anthology show. An episode example would reportedly feature how the Marvel timeline would unfold if Loki found Thor's hammer.
  • An animated series based on Pixar's Monsters Inc.
  • A 10-episode series, Diary of a Female President, about a 12-year-old Cuban-American girl.
  • A documentary about Walt Disney Imagineering.
  • A Timmy Failure film directed by Spotlight's Tom McCarthy.
  • A live-action Lady and the Tramp remake.
  • A Sword in the Stone remake.
  • Noelle, a movie starring Anna Kendrick.
  • Togo, a sled dog movie starring Willem Dafoe.
  • A Three Men and a Baby remake.
  • The Paper Magician film.
  • A Stargirl film.
  • A High School Musical series.
  • A possible Muppets series.

What shows and movies do you want to appear on Disney's streaming service? Pop them into the comments section and we'll keep updating this post with more information as it becomes available.

This piece was first published Aug. 27, 2018, and is updated as more news arrives.