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The Streaming Wars Are Here: Disney And Viacom Offer First Details About Their Services

Streaming/OTT (over-the-top) services are proliferating. There’s Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Google’s Youtube Red, and Apple (launching soon) — and those are just some of the biggest ones.

Yes, there’ll be a shakeout at some point, but it’s boom time for producers and creators over the next several years, including those who work in the animation industry. (Netflix alone is spending up to $8 billion this year on content).

The field is about to become even more crowded as the Hollywood establishment enters the fray. Strategically, big Hollywood isn’t taking the same approach as the tech companies. They already have deep libraries and own prestige IP, so they don’t have to spend huge sums developing original properties. But their presence puts the heat on the tech players, who will now have to fund even more original ideas in pursuit of successful series that set them apart from the pack.

In the past couple weeks, two entertainment conglomerates – Walt Disney Company and Viacom – revealed the first details about their streaming plans. Here’s a look at what they’re planning to each offer:

Walt Disney Company

Disney’s streaming plans became clearer last week after Deadline published a report on it. The platform, expected to launch in fall 2019, will initially be available only in the United States, followed by an international rollout. No price has been set for the service.

The service will have no R-rated content; adult content will be delivered through Hulu, in which Disney will own a 60% stake after the Fox deal goes through. Also, current Marvel live-action series will remain on their current homes, including Netflix.

Besides library content, Disney plans to launch four to five original movies and five tv series annually. Series are expected to cost in the $25-35 million rangefor 10 episodes, though some live-action shows could cost as much as $100 million per season.

Among the notable projects related to animation will be “live action” versions of the classic Disney animated films Lady and the Tramp and Sword in the Stone. The only known animation project on the series side is a show based on Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. franchise.

The Walt Disney Co.’s chief strategy officer Kevin Mayer said earlier this week at the Code Media conference that its upcoming service isn’t intended as a Netflix killer. “We’re not trying to hurt or kill Netflix,” he said.

Viacom

Viacom announced its streaming service on an earnings call earlier this month. Set to launch by September of this year, about a year earlier than Disney’s platform, the service differs in some significant ways. For one, it will be ad-supported, like Hulu.

Though Viacom hasn’t given any clue of what the service will include, Viacom CFO Wade Cullen Davis said on the earnings call that, “You should assume that we are really putting all of Viacom’s assets against this,” meaning that the service will have a grab bag of content from across the channels that Viacom owns, including “tens of thousands of hours of content” Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Paramount Network, and Comedy Central.

The service isn’t intended as a replacement for any of its existing cable channels, but is being positioned as an “MVPD [multichannel video programming distributor] complement product.”

That’s a vague and confusing term that could mean a lot of things. “I know that sounds cryptic,” said Viacom president/CEO Robert Bakish, “and we are going to have to leave it at that until we announce it.”

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