Six years ago, Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, clearly ignorant of Netflix and the harbinger of things to come, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “It’s a little bit like, is the Albanian army going to take over the world? I don’t think so.”
But that army was already advancing, taking posts with a stealth wireless connection, as Time Warner slogged through the broadcast cable mud. In the fall, Netflix will have won another battle when the streaming service becomes the “exclusive pay TV home” for Disney and its subsidiaries, including Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm titles.
[Netflix] will be allowed to stream all Disney films—including Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm titles—in the same window that they’d typically be made available to HBO, Starz, and other paid TV networks. That’s still after the Blu-ray and digital releases, but it’s much, much sooner than the long and often unpredictable wait that Netflix customers had to put up with before. All Disney films released theatrically in 2016 and beyond are included in the agreement, for which Netflix is reportedly paying hundreds of millions per year.
The Los Angeles Times in 2012 reported “Netflix could ultimately pay more than $300 million annually for Disney movies.” But Netflix is flush with cash, as demonstrated last year in picking up a $60 million tab for Brad Pitt’s upcoming vehicle, the satirical war film War Machine.
Not only will the deal keep cable outlets like HBO off the first run schedule (at minimum), Netflix will have exclusive streaming rights. While the Pixar and Lucasfilms titles would be boons, even individually, the real get is exclusive access to the Marvel franchise, especially as the brand’s comic-based films continue its surge in both quantity and quality.
Ultimately, all of this means Netflix’s ongoing ascent—it’s already the leader in paid streaming and packed with high-quality, original programming—will catch a significant boost, further distancing itself from competitors, like Amazon Prime and Hulu, at least for the deal’s three-year duration.
Looking ahead, Marvel releases X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27.
The lineup continues to heat up in November when Benedict Cumberbatch stars in Doctor Strange. A final Wolverine movie, another Guardians of the Galaxy, a Thor release, and a probable reboot of the Spider-Man franchise is on the schedule for 2017. Though previewed in the critically acclaimed Captain America: Civil War, the much-anticipated Black Panther is actually slated for a 2018 release.
H/T The Verge