Can Disney+ Survive Without MarvelWars?

Diversity may be necessary for long-term success

Well, it’s finally happening. Warner Bros. Discovery is moving to change the name of its newly-combined streaming service, and it’s possibly going with…drum roll please…MAX. Yes, you read that right. The new name will either give the company’s new streaming service an excessive amount of power or leave people wondering if “MAX” was how much extra they’re paying once the new price tag emerges.

In this issue:

  • Disney’s been leaning hard on Marvel and Star Wars content

  • Consumers are souring on both

  • Long-term success for Disney+ will likely necessitate more must-see IPs

Now Entering Phase 5

Over the past decade, Disney has been increasingly emptying all of its eggs into two baskets: Marvel and Star Wars. We’re currently entering Phase 5—yes, Phase 5—of the MCU. The Marvel machine has been going on long before the MCU, but it wasn’t until Iron Man broke barriers in 2008 that the mood towards Marvel films began to shift.

Disney was quick to see the value in what the Marvel Comics Universe could become and snapped up the rights to the MCU just one year later in 2009—albeit missing some essential players (the X-Men) that wouldn’t fall into their hands until later. Fast forward to 2022, and there are now over 42 movies and TV series in Disney’s MCU.

Shifting over to Disney’s other machine, the company purchased LucasFilm in 2012, acquiring the rights to produce Star Wars films and series. Since then, it’s ramped up production of Star Wars content, with the galaxy far, far away now boasting 21 movies and TV shows.

Now, let’s do some quick math. Disney+ has 1,739 titles in its U.S. content library. Together, MarvelWars content makes up nearly 4% of that. While that may seem small, it’s big when you consider viewers have collectively poured at least 13.8 billion viewing hours into The Mandalorian and over 5 billion into Lokialone.

A 2019 Hollywood Reporter survey found 36% of Disney+ subscribers were in it for Marvel and Star Wars content, with 22% citing Disney classics. Of course, that survey was conducted before Disney hiked its prices.

Fatigue is the new black

You never want to have the word “fatigue” attached to your content. But that’s exactly what’s happening with Disney’s top-grossing and most popular content. A November study by Fandom found that around 30% of Marvel fans are feeling “fatigued” with its content. Simply put: There’s just too much to watch, and it’s hard to keep up.

In Disney’s favor, most of those fans will still watch the shows, but they may not be feeling as invested if the price of Disney+ rises beyond their desire to watch MCU series. That’s especially true if the company continues to produce shows like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law that flop with audiences.

On the bright side, Disney’s Star Wars content has fared better. There are no similar reports of Star Wars fans expressing a similar level of fatigue with the content, which is understandable. Disney has not produced nearly as much Star Wars content as it has for the MCU. But Disney still has to deal with an overwhelmingly disagreeable fan base that New York Post described as “impossible to please”.

Diversity = Profit

What is the chief end goal of Disney+? Profit. Pure and simple. To date, Disney+ has done nothing but lose money. In fact, the streaming service was a chief contributor to Disney’s $2 billion in losses so far this year.

We can’t blame Disney too much. It’s common for streaming services to lose money until they hit the right subscriber count. But the problem with Disney’s MarvelWars content is that those shows are exceptionally expensive to produce. And Disney will need to either boost subscriber counts or prices (or both at the same time) by huge margins to begin turning a profit.

That means finding a way to attract more subscribers to other content that doesn’t cost nearly as much to produce.

How? We’ll leave answering that one to Iger.

Give MarvelWars a much needed break

Disney+ is struggling under the weight of costs and consumer fatigue from its biggest IPs, Marvel and Star Wars. Unless it can diversify its portfolio with must-watch and cheaper-to-produce content, it’s going to need either a major subscriber boost or a huge price increase. If not, its financial losses will get the stink-eye from shareholders.

The Watchlist

Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio enchants on Netflix Friday, Dec. 9.

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Will Smith stars as Whipped Peter in the harrowing Emancipation, coming to Apple TV+ Friday, Dec. 9.

Get silly in the kitchen when Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge premieres on Prime Video Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Peacock is delivering even more baking with the season premiere of Baking It, coming Monday, Dec. 12

Irish delight The Banshees of Inisherin drops Tuesday, Dec. 13 on HBO Max.

Let the exploring begin in the new National Treasure: Edge of History series, premiering on Disney+ Wednesday, Dec. 14.

HBO Max blesses us with season premieres of South Side and Doom PatrolThursday, Dec. 8

Rebecca Hall is seeing double in The Night House, coming to Hulu Thursday, Dec. 8.

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