Disney+ is removing hundreds of movies and TV shows
By Sean Thiessen | Published
Disney has undergone massive shakeups in recent weeks amid falling stock prices. Bob Iger returned to CEO to replace Bob Chapek, a move that stunned the industry and led to layoffs and a hiring freeze. While most of these changes have been behind the scenes, consumers are feeling the effects when titles disappear from Disney+, according to a report from WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com.
Movies and series have left Disney+ in droves in recent weeks. The effect has been most noticeable in countries outside the US, and a majority of the programs to be removed have been relatively unpopular. Notable exceptions include Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Terminal Velocity, Poseidon Adventure, and The Man from Snowy River.
The reasons for the Disney+ content exodus are complex, depending on the title. (Anyone outside the situation would be lucky to wrap their head around the deal between Disney and Sony regarding Spider-Man). However, the bottom line in each case is money.
Hosting a title on a streaming service comes at a cost. Everything takes up server space, which isn’t free, and remaining deals could keep Disney’s paying filmmakers as long as their work is seen on the streaming service. These factors vary, and a cost-benefit analysis for each title may reveal that some content does not merit it.
Licensing agreements add another layer of complexity when deciding which film will go where. Disney can, and does, license content to other distribution channels for certain periods of time. They could, for example, license Toy Story to Netflix for X number of dollars and X number of years, if both parties felt it was beneficial (they don’t, just to clarify).
Conversely, Disney licenses for streaming content, such as some National Geographic titles, also have an expiration date. If the license is not renewed, the title will leave the service and return to where it came from.
Lending exclusivity rights to other distribution channels, which can cause a title to temporarily leave Disney+, is common practice for production companies. The recent pruning of the Disney+ library is not a sign of disaster. Disney cutting costs by removing unpopular titles from their servers is to be expected from a company trying to right the ship financially, as is their impending ad-supported plan, which follows Netflix’s recent change.
A key feature Disney+ lacks that its competitors use is a warning when a title is about to leave the platform. This becomes a problem for anyone who finds themselves in the middle of a show Disney thinks fits better elsewhere. While the flagship titles are likely safe, off-the-beaten-path Disney content could hit the chopping block as restructuring continues behind the walls of the storied studio.
With over a century of storytelling and a landmark number of acquisitions, the Disney umbrella encompasses an absurd number of films and series. The entire Disney library cannot be maintained on Disney+, and some titles are bound to fall by the wayside. However, the streaming era has only just begun. As the rulebook for creating and distributing content continues to be rewritten on a daily basis, the future of Disney+ and its competitors is an adventure unto itself.