Disney Lifts Lid on Plans for Star Service

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There’s a new Star in the Disney galaxy.

The Mouse House lifted the lid on its highly anticipated Star offering — the sixth tile within its international Disney Plus offering — on Wednesday, coming almost a year after Disney Plus launched in Europe. Ahead of the virtual confab, Disney Plus managed to name a host of actual stars for media covering the event, couriering certificates of registration with the International Star Registry.

Star, which launches in Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand on Feb. 23, is effectively doing what an international version of Hulu would have done: expand the Disney offering abroad with adult-friendly content. Disney hit the brakes on expanding that U.S. service, which is a relatively unknown entity in key global markets, and instead leaned into its Star brand, which is already recognized in Asia and some parts of Europe.

Star will feature 75 new TV shows, 300 movies and new U.S. originals, including “Big Sky,” “Love Victor” and “Solar Opposites.” Other catalogue highlights include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Atlanta,” “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” as well as Searchlight movies like “The Favourite” and “Braveheart.” Eventually, all episodes of “Golden Girls” will also land on Disney Plus.

On hand for an in-studio presentation were Jan Koeppen, president of Disney EMEA; Luke Bradley-Jones, senior VP of direct-to-consumer and general manager for Disney Plus EMEA; and Liam Keelan, VP of original productions for Europe.

Bradley-Jones confirmed that Disney Plus will become the “exclusive streaming home” for catalogue titles such as “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” over time, which will almost certainly raise questions about Disney’s priorities for international licensing deals.

FX and Hulu series from the U.S. will also make their way on to Star, with new arrivals including “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Steve Martin, as well as “The Old Man” and “Dopesick,” starring Michael Keaton and Rosario Dawson. The BBC and FX previously had an output deal in place, but that will likely come to an end in order for the cabler’s shows to land on Star instead.

Earlier in the week, Disney Plus unveiled a handful of titles from its planned 50-title originals offering, with Star originals coming out of France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany.

Keelan expanded on the European shows being lined up, highlighting “Parallels,” a new original out of France, which he deemed “a perfect Disney show because it’s a real rollercoaster ride for everyone involved, and there is real wit and warmth.”

The former BBC Studios scripted exec also highlighted “Good Mothers” out of Italy, which is a crime story told entirely from the female perspective, and teased “a number of projects” out of the U.K. spanning comedy, drama and unscripted.

“The production community has embraced what we’re trying to do and they’re excited to create new content,” said Keelan. “It’s important to have shows that stand up against the line-up of brilliant shows we already have. Shows that have a real impact in the market.”

Bradley-Jones also expanded on the parental controls element of the platform, which will be vital for Disney if it intends to keep the rest of the service family-friendly. A complex network of content ratings will be rolled out on Disney Plus from Feb. 23, said the executive. “It will let customers set content ratings and control access to the app and profiles based on those ratings, which range from zero-plus up to 18-plus,” he said.

Users will be able to pin profiles to older content ratings “to ensure other members of household don’t end up watching what they’re not meant to.” All Disney Plus customers will be prompted to go through and set their content ratings (they’ll need to have their passwords handy to do so). If they skip the process on Feb. 23, when Star officially launches, then access to Disney Plus will automatically default to a 14-plus rating.

Meanwhile, Koeppen also confirmed that the service will go up in price from £5.99 to £7.99 per month.

Disney first hinted at a Star streaming service for international markets back in August, when CEO Bob Chapek teased a new “international direct-to-consumer general entertainment offering.”

The new service, which wisely ended up being an extra tile as opposed to an individual platform, pulls in content from Disney Television Studios, Touchstone and the content brands FX, 20th Century Studios, 20th Television that were acquired as part of the 21st Century Fox acquisition in 2019. Late last year, the platform confirmed that David E. Kelly series “Big Sky” and “Love, Victor” would launch on the platform, alongside iconic shows such as “24,” “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Also available at launch will be “How I Met Your Mother,” “Prison Break,” “The X-Files,” “Black-ish,” “Atlanta” and the “Die Hard” movie franchise.

Outside of Europe, Canada and Australia, the SVOD will launch for the first time in Singapore in February, followed by Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea later in 2021. Latin America will get its own version of the service, branded Star Plus, that will launch in June.





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