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Disney Plus: Streaming Black Widow, movies, shows and everything else

Disney Plus is streaming Black Widow (for a price), plus lots of other movies and shows. Here are the important things to know.

Disney Plus' logo on a phone
Sarah Tew/CNET

Disney Plus has been the breakout hit among a wave of new streaming services, leaning into its deep library of shows and movies, buzzy originals and big-screen films to watch the same time they hit theaters. Loki, its latest Marvel original series, dropped its season finale Wednesday; the service's shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision racked up Emmy nominations; and Marvel's Black Widow is the latest -- and the biggest -- same-day film release so far, available to stream there now. 

But while every Disney Plus subscribers can watch Loki, not everyone can stream Black Widow

Black Widow is available only for subscribers who pay an extra fee. It's available through the Premier Access model, which requires an extra $30 payment on top of the regular price of a Disney Plus subscription.

It appeared to be a popular option. Black Widow had a big audience over the weekend, with Disney Plus subscribers spending more than $60 million to watch it online. That works out to roughly 2 million accounts opting to stream it instead of going to a theater. (Black Widow had a big reception on the big screen too, with a $158 million haul at the box office worldwide). 

But keep in mind: Disney Plus recently raised prices, and last year it eliminated its seven-day free trial for new members. As of late March, Disney Plus' monthly subscription now costs $8 in the US, a price increase of $1 a month. Its annual plan went up by $10, to $80 a year. And Disney's three-service bundle -- combining streaming access to HuluDisney Plus and ESPN Plus -- also went up $1 a month. But the monthly rate of Disney Plus is still roughly half the price of HBO Max and compares with Netflix's cheapest tier, which is $9 a month. 

When will Black Widow be 'free' on Disney Plus? 

Black Widow is scheduled to become part of the standard Disney Plus catalog on Oct. 6. Some people refer to this as the date Black Widow will be "free" to watch, but everything on Disney Plus still requires a paid subscription.

How do I watch Black Widow on Disney Plus? 

Black Widow was released on Disney Plus' Premier Access model, and its release should be the same as those of other Premier Access titles that came before. 

With Premier Access, films cost $30 to unlock on top of the price you pay for a Disney Plus subscription. You can purchase access to the film on Disneyplus.com and in the service's apps for Apple (including iPhones), Google (including Android phones), Amazon, Roku and other platforms. The service will automatically prompt you to pony up with your payment method already on file and request that you enter details like a credit card CVV number. 

Purchasers are able to watch Black Widow for as long as they remain active Disney Plus subscribers. In this way, Premier Access isn't like unlocking an online rental that expires. Once you pay for a Premier Access title like Black Widow, you can keep watching it for as long as your account remains active. 

The price varies internationally in local currencies, but the value of the international prices is generally on par with $30. Taxes vary by country. In some countries, purchasers will need to pay taxes on top of the purchase. But in other countries, like those in the eurozone, the price already includes taxes.

Can I wait before purchasing Black Widow with Premier Access? 

Basically, you have two months to decide. Premier Access is typically available as a purchase option for two months after a title is released. But, like other Premier Access movies that came before, Black Widow won't become part of the standard catalog for three months. That leaves a one-month gap. Black Widow is expected to be unavailable for purchase on Disney Plus in early September, a month before it joins the standard library any subscriber can stream.

People who previously purchased Black Widow on Disney Plus won't have any disruption to their access to the title, though. 

Now that Loki is done, what's the next Marvel show on Disney Plus? 

Technically, Disney Plus's next Marvel original series will be What If?…, an animated series with a star-studded voice cast. It is set to premiere on Aug. 11

But the next live-action Marvel series -- that is, one similar to LokiThe Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision -- will either be Hawkeye or Ms. Marvel. So far, Disney Plus hasn't confirmed a release date for either, other than generally planning for both to come out sometime before the end of the year. Hawkeye, specifically, was previously slated for fall. 

The Hawkeye series stars Jeremy Renner, reprising his role from the movies. The show will add the character Kate Bishop, who in the comics becomes a second Hawkeye; Hailee Steinfeld is playing the role. 

Ms. Marvel is also introducing a new character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the comic books, the Ms. Marvel character was first incarnated by Carol Danvers, who later took up the identity of Captain Marvel. Then the name was most recently passed on to Kamala Khan, a teen protege of Danvers who is Marvel's first Muslim character to headline her own comic book. 

When does Jungle Cruise come out on Disney Plus? 

Jungle Cruise is set to become available on Disney Plus July 30, the same day it hits theaters. Like Black Widow, it will be part of the Premier Access model, and so it will require the extra $30 payment to watch online. 

When will Cruella be available to stream 'free,' without paying the extra Premier Access fee? 

The movie will be streamable at no added cost for all regular Disney Plus subscribers on Aug. 27. Some people refer to this as the date Cruella will be "free" to watch, but everything on Disney Plus requires a paid subscription. On Aug. 27, Cruella will simply no longer require any additional fee. 

Cruella is expected to be unavailable for purchase on Disney Plus in late July, a month before it joins the standard library any subscriber can stream. (But by that time, the movie should be available in other formats, like standard online rentals, Blu-ray, etc.)

When does Eternals come out on Disney Plus?  

Disney hasn't confirmed a streaming release date yet for Eternals, which is a star-packed Marvel movie scheduled to be released in theaters on Nov. 5. But here's what we know and some educated guesses about what to expect. 

  • It is highly unlikely that Eternals will be available to stream on Disney Plus when the movie hits theaters Nov. 5. 
  • It's highly likely that Eternals will be in theaters exclusively for at least a month and a half -- and possibly longer than that. 
  • Disney Plus will be the only service to (eventually) stream Eternals when it does become available for streaming.
  • We just don't know if Eternals will come to Disney Plus right after its theatrical exclusive ends or if it will take a pre-pandemic amount of time to reach Disney Plus. 

Before the pandemic, new Disney movies would make their way to Disney Plus about five to eight months after they premiered in theaters. That means it's possible that Disney Plus subscribers could be waiting until summer 2022 to start streaming Eternals. We won't know for certain until Disney confirms the streaming plan for Eternals. And we won't be able to make an educated guess about that until the company sets the streaming plan for Shang-Chi, the big Marvel movie that will precede Eternals. 

Will Disney keep releasing its new movies in theaters and on Disney Plus simultaneously? 

During the pandemic, Disney Plus introduced this Premier Access model to sell streaming access to new, big-screen movies as a way to get the movie out to wider audiences while cinemas where shuttered or open at a fraction of their normal capacity. So far, Disney has released several movies this way: the live-action remake of Mulan, animated fantasy Raya and the Last Dragon, and Cruella. Black Widow is the latest one, and it will be followed by Jungle Cruise on July 30.

But as cinema restrictions ease and more people feel safe crowding into movie theaters, Disney is going to reintroduce theatrical-only windows starting in August. Free Guy, a sci-fi comedy from Disney's 20th Century Fox, will be released in theaters exclusively for 45 days starting Aug. 13. Then Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will be released Sept. 2 in theaters exclusively for 45 days as well. It's likely that other big-budget movies like Eternals will either follow suit -- or have an even longer period in cinemas only.

While Disney has specified theatrical exclusives for some films, the company hasn't clarified how its streaming plan will play out for movies like Shang-Chi and other megabudget movies like Eternals set to come out later this year. Typically, before the pandemic, new Disney movies would make their way to Disney Plus about five to eight months after they premiered in theaters. But it's unclear whether movies like Shang-Chi and Eternals will be available on Disney Plus right after the theatrical window ends or if it will take longer for them to arrive. 

But for some of its forthcoming movies, Disney is simply switching films originally planned for theaters to be Disney Plus originals instead, skipping theaters entirely. This strategy mostly applies to midbudget movies, including Pinocchio, a live-action remake starring Tom Hanks; its Peter Pan reboot; Disenchanted, a sequel to Enchanted that'll have Amy Adams reprise her princess role; and Sister Act 3, reviving the comedy franchise about nuns. 

Does Disney Plus have a free trial? Or other free offers? 

Disney Plus no longer offers a standard free trial. It eliminated its one-week free trial program in June 2020, shortly before the premiere of Hamilton. 

But other deals may unlock Disney Plus free (or at no added cost). 

For example, Disney and Verizon have a deal that gives a free year of Disney Plus starting on launch day to all the carrier's customers with a 4G LTE or 5G unlimited account, as well as new customers of Verizon's Fios and 5G home internet services. Those who prepurchased a Disney Plus plan such as the now-expired three-year discounted subscription deal can stack their one free year on top of it, according to a Verizon FAQ.  

How much does Disney Plus cost? 

In the US, the Disney Plus service costs $8 a month, or $80 a year. The standalone Disney Plus service costs comparable amounts in other countries in their local currencies. 

Disney Plus' US price deeply undercuts the $14 monthly fee for Netflix's most popular plan in the US, which lets you stream to two different devices simultaneously in high definition. But Disney Plus allows all subscribers to stream to four devices and access 4K content at no extra cost -- features Netflix charges $18 a month to unlock its premium tier. 

Way back in 2017, Disney's then-CEO Bob Iger noted that Disney Plus pricing at launch would reflect the "fact that it will have substantially less volume" than prime competitor Netflix. As the months and years pass, Disney Plus is accumulating a bigger catalog of exclusives and originals. As that happens, it's widely expected the company will continue pushing its price higher. 

How much is the bundle with Hulu and ESPN Plus? 

The company also offers a bundle that combines Disney Plus with  Hulu (with ads) and ESPN Plus, offering a discount if you subscribe to all three of those streaming services for $14 a month. Put another way, you can subscribe to all three of Disney's main streaming services for the same price as a standard Netflix subscription. 

In January, the company introduced a higher tier of that bundle, one that removes the ads from Hulu. The package with ad-free Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus will cost $6 more than the basic bundle -- equivalent to the same cost increase you'd pay to step up from ad-supported Hulu to ad-free Hulu as stand-alone services. The ad-free-Hulu bundle is $20 a month.

What are the biggest shows and movies coming to Disney Plus in July 2021? 

These are some of the bigger titles coming to Disney Plus in the month of July. Disney Plus' new programming becomes available to stream at midnight PT/3 a.m. ET on the date of its release: 

What other shows and movies are coming to Disney Plus? 

Disney plans to flood Disney Plus and its other streaming services with shows and movies in the coming years, promising more than 100 new titles every year on Disney Plus and committing to spend $14 billion to $16 billion annually on streaming content across its services within the next four years. (That's about the same size as Netflix's budget now.) Disney Plus itself is going to get $8 billion to $9 billion of Disney's overall streaming budget. 

That eye-popping budget meant Disney has announced a wave of new Star Wars originals, tons of Marvel projects and an exhausting lineup of new shows and movies. Disney laid out plans for as many as 20 new Marvel and Star Wars series. For details on them, CNET has deep dives into the announced Star Wars slate and Marvel slate, as well as coverage that generalizes the Disney Plus pipeline.

Disney Plus is also licensing some outside programming, like the popular kids animation franchise Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir. Disney Plus struck a deal for the streaming rights to Miraculous' existing three seasons, as well as two more seasons that are forthcoming. Disney Plus is already streaming the brand's first TV movie, Miraculous World: New York - United HeroeZ; the second TV movie, Miraculous World: Shanghai-The Legend of Lady Dragon lands Friday. 

As for big-screen movies, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed how Disney releases its new movies on Disney Plus -- and the new normal isn't exactly clear yet. At first, Disney Plus simply started streaming already-released movies months earlier than planned, such as Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerFrozen 2 and Pixar's Onward. Then Disney started ratcheting up the streaming releases of new movies, such as its film version of the award-winning musical Hamilton with most of the original Broadway cast. The Hamilton film arrived on Disney Plus more than a year before its originally planned theatrical date. Pixar's latest animated film, Soul, also went straight to Disney Plus on Christmas Day.

Then Disney introduced its Premier Access model, which sells streaming access to new, big-screen movies for an additional $30 on Disney Plus at the same time they're also available in theaters. 

What shows and movies can I stream already? 

Disney Plus is designed to be the exclusive home to stream theatrical films, shows and shorts from Star WarsMarvel, Pixar, Disney's own studio and National Geographic. It also has exclusive series and films, some of which are based on those blockbuster franchises, and others that are original. 

With the elimination of Disney Plus' free trial last year, potential subscribers can't sign up to check out the catalog without having to pay first. But an easy way to see what's available on Disney Plus without forking over any money is using a third-party catalog search service like Reelgood

Disney Plus also integrates programming from Fox. All 30 seasons of The Simpsons are on Disney Plus, it's begun adding X-Men franchise films, and titles like The Sound of MusicThe Princess Bride and Malcolm in the Middle live there too. (Disney has also said it'll mine the Fox catalog for reboots too, "reimagining" past Fox franchises "for a new generation" -- a reboot of Home Alone is in the works, for example.)

Generally, Disney Plus houses the entire film libraries of Pixar, Star Wars and its Signature Series and Disney Vault lines of classic hand-drawn animated movies. It has all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies available to stream, with the exception of ones that were made by Universal or Sony. (So, that's why you won't find the Tom Holland Spider-Man films on Disney Plus, even though you can stream Holland portraying Spider-Man in Disney-made MCU movies like Avengers: Endgame.) 

Because of previous licensing deals, it'll be a long time before Disney Plus is an exhaustive library of all Disney movies. CNET has a comprehensive list of the major shows and movies still coming to Disney Plus. But starting with 2019's releases, all of Disney's new theatrical films stream exclusively on Disney Plus. 

Then there's the big slate of original, exclusive shows and movies for the service. 

It's first major original was Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian, a big-budget series starring Pedro Pascal that takes place five years after the events in The Return of the Jedi and focuses on a bounty-hunting gunfighter. It's the service's marquee original series and home to viral sensation Baby Yoda, who became a pop culture phenom. Disney is investing heavily in The Mandalorian. The show's budget reportedly approached $15 million per episode in the first season. By comparison, Game of Thrones didn't hit that kind of spending until its final season. 

But Disney Plus originals run the gamut. The Mandalorian is a textbook example of a Disney Plus original that feeds off the company's existing franchises. But, for example, a Taylor Swift film that goes behind the scenes of the recording of her Folklore album is one of the Disney Plus originals without any existing ties to Disney as a company. Disney has many shows, movies and specials like this. 

Disney Plus has original documentaries, reality shows, competition series, behind-the-scenes features, nature and adventure titles, animated programming -- the list goes on. It's a place for Disney to show off short films from within the company, like via its Launchpad incubator program designed to elevate opportunities for filmmakers from underrepresented groups.

Disney Plus is even starting to stream two-dimensional versions of Disney's virtual-reality shorts. 

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What devices support Disney Plus? 

Disney has wide device support, streaming to phones, tablets, computers, connected TVs and streaming media boxes. The company has global distribution agreements in place with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Roku, SonyAmazon, Samsung and LG. That encompasses the makers of:

  • Roku's boxes, sticks and TVs.
  • Apple TV, iPhone and iPad.
  • Phones and TVs running on Android operating systems, as well as Chromecast streamers.
  • Xbox One.
  • PlayStation 4.
  • Amazon Fire TV devices.
  • Samsung smart TVs.
  • LG smart TVs.
  • Comcast X1 set-top boxes and Flex platforms.

What product features does the service include? 

Disney Plus can stream 4K Ultra HD content in Dolby Vision, HDR10 and Dolby Atmos immersive audio. You can see a title's available formats in any of the Disney Plus apps by clicking to that show or movie's main page and then clicking on the "details" tab. The app for streaming boxes, like Roku and Apple TV, is also designed to briefly flash a symbol telling you the format that you're watching; it appears in the upper right corner of the screen for a few seconds when a video begins to play.

Every Disney Plus account can stream to four devices simultaneously and can create seven user profiles for different members of the household. Each account can pick an avatar of a Disney, Pixar, Marvel or Star Wars character, with more than 200 avatars available.

Disney Plus also offers unlimited mobile downloads for offline viewing. Subscribers can download to up to 10 mobile or tablet devices, with no constraints on the number of times a title can be downloaded. The number of titles stored at one time on a device depends on how much storage space is available on the device.

The service is supposed to support English, Spanish, French and Dutch at launch, including user interface as well as audio support and subtitles for library content, with additional languages available for Disney Plus originals.

The app also supports closed captioning, descriptive audio and navigation assistance to help subscribers with disabilities. (In July, the American Council of the Blind gave Disney Plus an achievement award for its descriptive audio, specialized tracks that describe the settings and the action taking place alongside a program's dialogue.) 

Disney Plus offers parental controls in the form of kids profiles. You can designate any profile to be in a kids mode, which has a simplified interface designed for younger viewers. These kids profiles limit the library to programming that's rated TV-7FV and G in the US, or the equivalent ratings in other geographic markets.

And Disney has a group-watching feature, which lets you synchronize your stream of any title on Disney Plus with other accounts through the app, so you can watch a program at the same time as friends or family even if you're apart. 

Where is Disney Plus available, and when will it launch in new countries? 

Disney Plus has launched in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, France, Portugal, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, India (branded as Disney Plus Hotstar), Indonesia and Japan. It has also launched across Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Elsewhere, Disney Plus is continuing its global rollout, now under the umbrella of a new international streaming service from Disney, called Star. That expansion begins in Singapore on Feb. 23, followed by Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea later in 2021.

The service first launched Nov. 12, 2019, in the US, Canada and the Netherlands. The initial launch of Disney Plus came less than two weeks after Apple TV Plus rolled out. Demand to sign up and start using the service caused widespread crashes the first day. 

I was watching Disney Plus free through Verizon -- what happens when that expires? How do I cancel?

For customers who signed up for Disney Plus through a Verizon promotion to unlock a free year (or another duration of time free), those subscriptions will automatically convert to the $7 monthly plan once the free period has expired. 

If you keep the subscription, it will automatically start charging the $7-a-month rate through your Verizon bill. If you purchased an annual or multiyear subscription prior to redeeming the Verizon offer in 2019, then you go back to the original plan you had. 

If you want to keep the subscription but are open to changing your wireless service, you could also upgrade your service to one of Verizon's so-called Play More or Get More Unlimited plans, which include Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus.

If you want to cancel, you should log into the My Verizon customer support portal and choose "Manage Disney Plus," where you should be able to cancel your service.

What about the Hulu bundle? How does Disney Plus fit in with Disney's other streaming services?

Disney Plus is a competitor to video streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Apple TV Plus. It's a paid subscription without any advertising, and it gives customers access to a vast library of Disney's and Fox's legacy content as well as new, exclusive TV shows, movies, documentaries and shorts. 

Disney's other US streaming services -- Hulu and sports-focused ESPN Plus -- run on the same tech platform. Disney plans for all three to be individual subscriptions, but it's offering the triple-service bundle to get discounts on all three. 

Disney Plus includes all of Disney's family-friendly content and much of its mass-audience fare -- basically, anything made for audiences up to a PG-13 rating. It has content from Disney proper, Marvel, Lucasfilm (so, Star Wars), Pixar and National Geographic. And outside those traditional categories it also offers all 30 seasons of The Simpsons, a feather in its cap from the Fox takeover. 

Hulu, on the other hand, is where Disney streams more-adult-oriented material. For example, two series originally planned for Disney Plus -- High Fidelity and Love, Victor -- were moved over to Hulu instead because of their more mature themes. Hulu is also the official streaming home for FX networks. (FX became part of Disney after Disney bought Fox for $71.3 billion.) 

For now Hulu will continue to stream content from three of the broadcast networks, as well as its own original series. 

And Disney now has full control over Hulu's direction. Hulu was jointly owned by four parent companies for years, but in 2019 Disney bought all the shares of Hulu it didn't already own. That gave Disney the flexibility to offer its bundle discount. 

How does this affect Disney stuff on Netflix?

Disney mostly disappeared from Netflix over the course of 2020 (but some content may be coming back).

Since 2016, Netflix had 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 those years. The top two movies of 2017 and the top three movies of 2016 and 2018 were all from Disney, and Netflix was 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 were destined for Disney Plus. That means Captain Marvel, the first movie Disney released theatrically in 2019, is the first movie on Disney Plus instead of Netflix. It also means that Mary Poppins Returns was the final Disney theatrical release on Netflix.

But licensing is complicated, and one report indicates Disney will return those movies to Netflix -- and remove them from Disney Plus -- temporarily starting in 2026. It affects movies released between January 2016 and December 2018, which includes Marvel titles like Captain America: Civil War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War; Star Wars hits like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and The Last Jedi; and Pixar staples like Finding Dory, Coco and The Incredibles 2. It also touches family favorites like Moana and the live-action Beauty and the Beast. 

One consideration: Disney Plus won't lose these titles until six years after the service launches. At that point, Disney Plus will have built a large permanent library of original content, and it'll continue to funnel all its newest releases to Disney Plus and nowhere else. Presumably, that'll take some of the sting out of losing these films for a limited time. 

And it's always possible Disney pays through the nose to claw back the rights to those films so they can stay on Disney Plus. 

Netflix's Marvel Defenders shows are complicated too. 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. A top executive (who's since left Disney to lead TikTok) said Disney Plus could possibly revive the canceled shows. But the terms of their original deal could restrict Disney Plus from any revivals until 2020, according to a report.