logo

Disney is betting big on nostalgia for Disney+ launch

Key Points
  • Starting Tuesday, Disney+ will have hundreds of library titles available, ranging from animated classics and Disney Channel TV shows to superhero blockbusters and intergalactic sagas.
  • Content like "Kim Possible," "Lizzie McGuire," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and "The Apple Dumpling Gang," have massive, passionate fan bases that will sign up for Disney+ to watch hours of content.
  • There will also be new shows based on "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc.," "Lizzie McGuire" and "High School Musical" that will appear on the service within its first year.
Julie Andrews portrays Maria von Trapp in a scene from the popular movie musical of 1965, The Sound of Music.
Bettmann | Getty Images

"Ducktales," "The Sound of Music," "The Princess Diaries," "Tron" — Disney has spent months teasing out all of the movies and TV shows that will appear on its streaming service Disney+ on launch day. And now it's here.

The House of Mouse has been preparing for this moment for years. From discontinuing licensing contracts for its hit movies to purchasing little-known tech company BamTech to build out its streaming platform, Disney is ready to do what it does best — entertain.

Starting Tuesday, Disney+ will have hundreds of library titles available, ranging from animated classics and Disney Channel TV shows to superhero blockbusters and intergalactic sagas. Not to mention, a dozen new programs based on iconic Disney properties for consumers to peruse.

"[Disney is] going to launch with a lot of momentum," Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst at MoffettNathanson, said. "They are tapping core Disney fans, Marvel fans, Lucasfilm fans."

While new shows like "The Mandalorian" will drive subscribers to Disney's service, much of its strategy is predicated on stirring up sentimentality around movies and shows that date back to the founding of the company nearly 100 years ago.

That's key to its strategy as it is entering a field that will soon become crowded with new rivals. In addition to Netflix and Apple TV+, there will soon be Peacock from NBCUniversal and HBO Max from AT&T's WarnerMedia.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that he feels the company's offering is very different from these other services.

Chris Hemsworth in Avengers: Endgame
Source: Null

Content like "Kim Possible," "Lizzie McGuire," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" and "The Apple Dumpling Gang," have massive, passionate fan bases that will sign up for Disney+ to watch hours of content. For some, it's a chance to relive their childhoods and for others it's a chance to share those childhood favorites with their own children.

"Right out of the gate, Disney+ offers hundreds of family classics, in addition to the extensive Fox catalog, Marvel movies, and Star Wars franchise for adults," Dallas Lawrence, chief brand officer at OpenX, a marketing platform for the open web, said. "Unlike Apple, which must attract viewers with a free membership, Disney has a built-in energized fan base that polling shows is twice as likely to select Disney+ as they are services like Apple TV+."

Hilary Duff as Lizzie McGuire from the Disney Channel show "Lizzie McGuire."
Disney

Disney has always had four-quadrant content, meaning it appeals to all ages and genders. While Star Wars and Marvel tend to skew toward a more male-dominant audience, Disney's animated features and Disney Channel shows tend to appeal more to a female audience. Of course, there is overlap for each category, but having this wide breadth of content ensures that Disney has mass appeal.

In October, Disney used its Disney+ Twitter handle to drum up excitement for the service by posting each film that would be available on the service starting Tuesday.

"Disney is doing a really good job of leveraging their brand name," said. Michael Smith, professor of information technology and marketing at Heinz College and Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University. "They are probably the one company with the most discernible brand name."

Smith said he always asks his student to name their top five favorite Disney movies and they are easily able to rattle off a handful. However, when he asks what their favorite Sony or Paramount films are, his students have a much harder time coming up with a list.

Enough originals?

The one resounding question analysts have is if Disney will have enough original content to keep customers coming back to the service in the years to come. While many have opted in to Disney's enticing three-year deal, Nathanson wonders about Disney's greater plan for the streaming service.

"Initially momentum is going to be quite strong," he said. "The question will be: are they spending enough money on original content? Is there enough original content to get people to come back?"

Rivals like Netflix are known for spending billions on acquiring shows from other companies as well as on original content. Netflix is expected to shell out around $15 billion this year just for content.

"Netflix is pushing out new shows fast enough to keep [consumers] subscribing," Smith said. "The streaming game is partly about how much you are pushing in at the top of funnel."

A scene from "The Mandalorian," an original Star Wars TV series that will stream on Disney+.
Disney

Iger has said within a year of Disney+'s launch the number of original shows and movies will go from 10 to 45. He also noted that by year five there will be more than 60 original projects on the service. But is it enough?

What Disney lacks in numbers, it seems to make up for with prestige. Initial buzz from critics about "The Mandalorian" suggests the series will become an instant classic with Star Wars fans. It will be doled out in weekly installments, and that should help with retention. Instead of signing up for a month to watch the show, fans will need to invest at least eight weeks to see the whole first season.

There will also be new shows based on "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc.," "Lizzie McGuire" and "High School Musical" that will appear on the service within its first year.

In addition, Disney will have a number of unscripted shows featuring hosts like Jeff Goldblum and Kristen Bell, Disney darlings in their own right, that the company hopes will entice people to the platform. There also will be a live-action "Lady and the Tramp" feature film and a Christmas flick starring Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader called "Noelle."

"If you are doing a Christmas movie, you should do it with Disney," Kendrick said of the project.

The "Pitch Perfect" actress said having the film go straight to Disney+ made "complete sense." After all, families like to gather in their living rooms to watch holiday movies together.

For Kendrick's family, "Muppet Christmas Carol" is the go-to holiday flick during family gatherings in the winter and it's a film they'll be able to watch on Disney+.

"And when I leave the room, they can watch 'Noelle,'" she joked.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC and CNBC.

VIDEO6:1406:14
Disney will be able to keep up with Netflix on content, media analyst says

The CNBC Evolve Summit will return, this time to Los Angeles, on Tuesday, Nov. 19. Visit cnbcevents.com/evolve to register.