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Here's what you need to know about the Disney+ launch

Streaming wars escalate with Disney+ launch
Streaming wars escalate with Disney+ launch 03:46

After more than four years of planning and an "unprecedented" marketing campaign from the Walt Disney Company, Disney+ is making its debut Tuesday.

Disney, of course, is far from the only company jumping into the streaming wars. Apple launched its own streaming platform earlier this month, and AT&T's and NBCUniversal's services are both set to debut next year.

But Disney+ has been closely watched in the past year as the media powerhouse went on a spending spree to buy out companies like Hulu, which it took over from former co-stakeholders AT&T and Comcast, as well as 21st Century Fox, which it bought for $71 billion in March. That gave the House of Mouse, which already owns well-regarded studios like Marvel and Pixar, even more assets for its streaming platforms, movies, theme parks and merchandise.

In an earnings call last week, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said the company developed an "unprecedented marketing campaign, drawing on every existing connection the Walt Disney company has with consumers." The goal: to "launch big and scale fast."

Still, Disney+ is unlikely to come close to Netflix's 150 million worldwide subscribers, at least in its first year. According to analysts at MoffettNathanson, Disney+ is expected to reach 18 million global subscribers by the end of 2020. Even though that would represent a fraction of Netflix's customer base, analysts believe the Disney+ service is likely to catch on with consumers and continue growing. The streaming service already has nearly 2 million subscribers in the US just from preorders, according to data provided to Business Insider from analytics company Jumpshot. 

Here's what you need to know about the Disney+ launch:

Basically everything under the House of Mouse

Disney+ has such an expansive library that it released a 3-hour trailer last month to showcase all its programs. By comparison, Apple had a relatively bare-bones launch earlier this month. At $6.99 per month, Disney+ will debut with 10 original movies, specials and series. It's also expected to release more than 45 original programs within a year of its launch. 

Pedro Pascal, known for his roles in "Game of Thrones" and "Narcos," plays the titular lone gunfighter in "The Mandalorian." Lucasfilm

The debut will include a live-action Star Wars series called "The Mandalorian," which is written by the actor and director Jon Favreau and follows a lone gunfighter after the fall of the Empire. Other shows include a live-action retelling of "Lady and the Tramp," a holiday comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader in "Noelle," and the scripted series "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series." Disney+ will even have the entire Simpsons catalog from its Fox acquisition. 

With its lineup of reboots, spinoffs, prequels and sequels, Disney+ is leaning into its preternatural ability to leverage nostalgia into billions of dollars. For instance, Disney is planning three Star Wars television series just as its big-screen "Skywalker" trilogy comes to an end this December. It's also planning on Disney Channel reboots of beloved shows, like "Lizzie McGuire," for next year.

Disney has been losing about $150 million in licensing revenue in its most recent fiscal year from terminating deals with Netflix and other services, according to the Associated Press. But the company is betting that what it makes through subscriptions will eventually make up for that.

Where can you watch Disney+?

Subscribers can start Disney+ with a seven-day free trial before paying the monthly fee, or the $69.99 yearly subscription. A bundle that includes Hulu and ESPN+ will cost $12.99 per month. That puts the three-tiered subscription on par with Netflix's standard subscription service, which starts at the same price. 

Disney+ will include content from under its own studio, as well as from Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar and Star Wars.   Disney

Hulu's most basic service costs $5.99 a month, or $11.99 for the ad-free version. HBO Now costs $14.99 per month, while Netflix starts at $8.99. Amazon Prime Video membership costs $8.99 per month. CBS All Access costs $5.99 per month and $9.99 to go commercial-free. (CBS All Access is owned by CBS Corp., the parent company of CBS News.)

Streaming users can watch Disney+ through devices on Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sony and Roku. They can also watch through Amazon Fire, Samsung and LG gadgets. Meanwhile, Verizon is offering Disney+ for free to many of its customers. 

Don't forget about Hulu

The spotlight may be on Disney+, but Disney has not forgotten about Hulu, which will become the streaming home for the FX Networks in March, as well as much of its more adult-oriented content. The network, which Disney bought last year as part of its 21st Century Fox acquisition, will be a "key content driver" for Hulu, according to Disney CEO Bob Iger. FX has earned 57 Emmy wins since 2014 for its shows that include "American Horror Story," "The Americans" and "Fargo."

Next year, Hulu will debut four new series, including "Devs," which follows a computer programmer investigating the disappearance of her boyfriend; "Mrs. America," an equal rights story starring Cate Blanchett; "A Teacher," about a high school teacher caught having an affair, starring Kate Mara; and "The Old Man," an action thriller starring Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow.

"The FX presence on Hulu, combined with original production from our ABC and Fox Television Studios and our Fox movie studios, including Searchlight, will greatly enhance Hulu's consumer proposition," Disney's Iger said in the earnings call last week. 

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