Asked during UBS’ Global Media and Communications Conference to handicap the prospects of the competing streaming service, set to launch in 2019, Sarandos said it’s unclear how Disney will position the entertainment offering.
Disney has proved deft at balancing direct-to-consumer and third-party selling. The power of the Burbank entertainment giant’s “killer brands” — among them Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar — serve as “destination brands,” entertainment properties whose appeal is strong enough to bring consumers to a theme park or store, Sarandos said.
At the same time, Disney maintains relationships with third-party distributors, from theater operators that exhibit its films to mass-market retailers such as Walmart and Target that sell T-shirts and other merchandise.
It’s unclear where Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming service will fall, Sarandos said.
“I don’t know if this one is basically saying, ‘Let’s keep all of our content and we’ll create a product for people to buy it from us only’ or if it’s saying, ‘We’re going to have some boutique-y things on the service and people who love Disney will just add it on,’ ” Sarandos said. “I don’t know the answer to that and, as I said, I think they’re trying to figure it out too.”
One thing is clear, at least at this point: Netflix won’t be seeking to challenge Disney when it comes to streaming live sports events.
Disney plans to launch an ESPN-branded streaming service in 2018, allowing users to view highlights, stream programming and subscribe to thousands of additional live sporting events.
Sarandos said he believes the major sports leagues have “unchecked pricing power,” making such programming a costly proposition. Ultimately, he said, the national sports leagues won’t need intermediaries to reach viewers. They, too, will go directly to the sports fans.