Disney did it. They released the May content list and people were quick to notice what we told you would happen indeed happened. We told you that Disney’s tacky decision to release no new content in the USA on Friday, April 15th would not be the last time they took their ball and went home. Once the seal is broken, there is nothing to stop them. There was a lot of commotion about this with Disney+ subscribers, but clearly not enough that Disney cared to prevent it from happening again.
The Disney+ (Dis)Content Team has now made the loathsome decision to skip another Friday in May and, for the first time since the new Wednesday / Friday split began last June, they’re skipping a Wednesday. They got so close to making it 1 year of reliable (but often shallow) releases. Now we’re scheduled to have 3 skipped days in 6-week period.
Perhaps some would argue Disney is not obligated to release content each Wednesday or Friday? That would be reasonable if they hadn’t spent a year establishing that reliable schedule. Consumers and customers now expect it, and are upset when they interpret the absence of content as apathy from the company they’re paying with their hard-earned cash to entertain them each week.
What Days Are Empty?
2 days completely devoid of new content. 2 days that paying customers get nothing where there would usually be something. 3 days skipped within a 6-week period.
Those days are:
- Friday, May 7th
- Wednesday, May 25th
Why Is Disney+ Skipping Days?
There is, of course, no legitimate excuse for this. They have content coming on other Fridays or Wednesdays they could moved up or move back. No excuse, because they don’t need to license something additional. They could distribute what they’re already adding throughout the month. We remain concerned that their leadership has no checks and balances in place to prevent this from happening. Is there really nobody on the content team or whoever signs off on the monthly lists that might say, “Wait, you guys left days empty. Let’s find something.”
The 25th was supposed to be the premiere of Obi-Wan. They strangely pushed it off the anniversary of A New Hope and apparently they’d intended to play it solo. After moving it, they didn’t schedule anything else.
What about licensing issues? That’s irrelevant to what we just mentioned, but there will never, ever be a valid reason to not add content on a specific day when thousands upon thousands of Disney-owned titles are missing. They have to have a team of people responsible for using their catalog, preparing it, licensing it and ensuring it’s distributed evenly. It’s unfathomable that they would completely run out of content in YEAR 3 of the service. But that is 100% the message Disney has been sending since January.
The already shallow library adds each month have completely dried up! We noticed when they started pulling in ESPN 30 for 30s to try and patch the holes back in January. We bashed our head against our desks when they added the ability to stream Rated R films mid-March before proceeding to provide 0 or increase the Disney+ monthly library additions at all. We still cannot believe the monthly adds have SHRUNK since unlocking the FULL catalog!
- For the first month since launch, there are ZERO Fox films scheduled for Disney+ in May.
- For the first month since launch, there are ZERO Fox AND ZERO Disney Pictures films scheduled for Disney+ in May.
- Disney is literally not adding ANY library films from Disney or Fox brands for the first month since LAUNCH.
The Fox Film Problem
Disney appears to have finally accepted what we told you since we started. Disney CANNOT access the massive Fox film library in USA with any reliability. Anything added almost immediately leaves for over 1 year at another service. Starz has an incredible stranglehold on the majority of the Fox film library until 2025 through a disgusting deal that Rupert Murdoch made mere days before the Disney / Fox deal closed. This deal renewed a Starz / Fox library agreement that was in its final days. Disney was days away from having access to hundreds of Fox films for Disney+, but instead, Fox kept them out of reach until 2025. Unreal, isn’t it?
Despite being Disney-owned, FX and FXM are also hoarding the majority of Fox movies from the past 6 years. These films are under what’s known as the “network window.” Many years ago, Fox signed a deal that new theatrical films would go to FX, FXM, and Hulu in between stays at HBO. These network window stays can last 2-6 years. Fox films follow a somewhat reliable pattern of HBO, FX / FXM / Hulu, HBO, Starz, with Prime Video and other services sprinkled in. Classic Fox movies also appear on Epix.
What Should Disney Do?
We’ve heard some people suggesting it’s time for Disney to give up on the Wednesday for series / Friday for movies split and just put content out on Fridays. Since they appear unwilling to dig into their vast archives and provide the thousands of missing Nat Geo specials, ABC specials, made for TV films, Touchstone films, Hollywood Pictures films, Disney Pictures films, Walt Disney-era specials, Freeform movies, etc, they need to provide consumers a reliable release plan. It pains us to permit Disney to get away with doing “less work” at what will likely soon after the new ad-tier launches be a “higher cost.”
Another option is what we suggested earlier, spreading the content they have available properly across the month.
Our preferred option is the expensive one. Disney needs to buy their Touchstone, Hollywood Pictures, Searchlight, and Fox films out of as many of the pre-existing deals at Starz, HBO, etc. that that can. This is what Kevin Mayer did with their Disney Pictures, Star Wars, Pixar, and Marvel films before launch. Accessing these studios would provide Disney+ an opportunity to add 20 films a month for years!
Disney should be able to rework their current Network Window deals between FX, FXM, Hulu, and Fox films to provide shared access to any Fox films available to those services. If Disney+ could stream the Fox movies they have at FX and Hulu, the content issues would be far, far less noticeable. Please note that we have absolutely no clue when that deal ends. If it’s imminent, they can wait a bit longer. We worry it’s more than 2 years out still.
What do you think Disney should do? Hopefully they take action. Soon.
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.