How Marvel Just Gave Disney+ An Early Advantage Against Its Streaming Competitors

Marvel’s splashy Comic-Con panel on Saturday did more than just get fans excited over the direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe post-“Endgame.” In teasing an expansive and multi-platform Phase 4, Kevin Feige supercharged Disney+’s already-lofty prospects.

Feige made good on his promise that the upcoming TV series for Disney+ would be a major part of the studio’s future. Shows like “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” and “WandaVision” were placed side-by-side with films like “Black Widow” and “Thor: Love and Thunder,” giving the upcoming streaming service bragging rights over its competitors in the high-stakes streaming push.

What other streaming service can boast that it’s part of the most popular film franchise in the world –the one that just dethroned “Avatar” as the highest-grossing film of all time?

Disney+ is under a lot of pressure to succeed and not only because Disney CEO Bob Iger has labeled it as the company’s most important initiative. Disney is forgoing almost an entire revenue stream — licensing its content to other outlets — on the bet that enough customers will fork over a monthly fee to make up the difference. Disney expects to lose $150 million from its overall revenue this year by getting rid of its output deals.

But the streaming landscape is quickly filling up and there are only so many consumer dollars to go around.

Earlier this year, there was a slight dip in the number of subscription services Americans were paying for on average. During Q1, the average U.S. household subscribed to 2.6 services and paid about $30 per month altogether, a modest decline from June 2018 when the average household paid about $33 per month for 2.8 services. The data suggested “stream fatigue” may be setting in, even as more services rush to enter the market.

Disney is entering a crowded streaming market. Along with stalwarts Netflix, Hulu, Amazon — and smaller services like CBS All Access and DC Universe — Disney will be competing with Apple, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal. Of all the new entrants, Disney+ appears to be the one best poised to succeed, and its relationship to the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be one of its biggest draws. A recent study found nearly 70% of Americans would be willing to pay for Disney+.

Unlike the prior TV shows out of Marvel TV that were ostensibly set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Disney+ shows will expand the big-screen narrative to the small screen in a way that “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” was never able to. Those other shows on ABC and Netflix were led by Marvel TV, which isn’t even in the same corporate flowchart as Marvel Studios. But with Feige and Marvel Studios leading the charge, the MCU connections will be stronger.

On Saturday, that point was made right away when Anthony Mackie came out on stage to tease “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” by holding Captain America’s shield.

At the end of “Avengers: Endgame” an elder Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) gave his shield to Mackie’s Sam Wilson/Falcon, donning him as the new Captain America, and the upcoming Disney+ series will see him team up with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) to battle Helmut Zemo, with Daniel Bruhl reprising his role from “Captain America: Civil War.”

Marvel has planned an aggressive roll-out strategy for its five Disney+ shows. “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” will premiere in Fall of 2020; “WandaVision” and “Loki” in the Spring of 2021; the animated “What If…” in the Summer of 2021 and “Hawkeye” in the Fall of 2021.

Two major Marvel comics characters will get their introductions in Disney+ shows. “WandaVision” will see the debut of the adult version of Monica Rambeau, better known as Photon, who first appeared as a child in “Captain Marvel.” “Hawkeye” will see the debut of Kate Bishop, who becomes the new Hawkeye from Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner). It wouldn’t be surprising to see either of them show up in a future MCU film.

Along with Marvel, Disney is crafting original series out of its other popular IP including “Star Wars” (“The Mandalorian” and its Cassian Andor “Rogue One” prequel) and Pixar (“Monsters at Work”). The company is putting its financial muscle behind Disney+ as well. It will invest $1 billion into its original content in 2020 alone, with plans to up that amount to “the mid $2 billion” by 2024.

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