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Confirmed: Disney+ UK launch set for 31st March 2020

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Staff Writer

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Disney+ finally has an official launch date in the UK, although it’s one that will require fan to wait a little while longer.

Disney’s new subscription streaming service has been in the works for some time, as Disney looks to take on Netflix with its own family-targeted service. The platform will launch on 12th November in the USA, with plans to expand overseas from there. It will be available in Canada and the Netherlands on the same day as the USA, with Australia and New Zealand following on 19th November.

The UK, though, has been left in limbo, as the complicated web of rights for Disney content works its way through to a compatible end point. That primarily means navigating the deal Disney has historically had with Sky, which offers Disney classics through its own Sky Disney-branded channel. Last month, we compared the content on offer on Disney+ with Sky’s own library and the titles available on Disney’s current UK subscription platform, DisneyLife, and predicted March 2020 as the likely launch date for the service.

Now, Disney has confirmed via Twitter: Disney+ will be available in the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain on 31st March.

More details haven’t yet been released, but DisneyLife currently costs £4.99 a month after a seven-day free trial, which gives you an idea of the kind of pricing Disney+ is likely to offer.

When is the Disney+ UK launch date?

20th October 2019

This November, Disney’s new subscription streaming service, Disney+, will launch in the USA and a handful of other countries. But with no sign of a launch here, there is one big question fans want answering: when is the Disney+ release date in the UK?

In short, we don’t know exactly, so if you want a definite answer, stop right here, we don’t want to lead you on. But what we do know that the service will not be available in the UK this year. Disney has, in fact, gone so far as to say that it will be launched by early 2020, in its trailers for Star Wars series The Mandalorian:

The House of Mouse’s subscription streaming platform has been in the works for some time, as Disney looks to take on Netflix with its own family-targeted service. The platform will launch on 12th November in the USA, with plans to expand overseas from there. It will be available in Canada and the Netherlands on the same day as the USA, with Australia and New Zealand following on 19th November.

The UK, though, will have to wait for longer, Variety initially reporting that Disney plans to launch in “all major markets” within the first two years. Why the delay? The answer to that lies in the content on offer.

In Disney+’s first year, it will release more than 25 original series and 10 original films, documentaries and specials. The new originals will use Disney’s brand to maximum effect, with Marvel series including The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki and WandaVision, a live-action series featuring Scarlet Witch and The Vision, plus Star Wars’ The Mandalorian, Toy Story-based Forky Asks a Question, and a new Monsters, Inc. spin-off show. All this builds on an already sizeable library of Disney titles and, thanks to its recent acquisition, Fox’s catalogue too.

But each of those existing titles come with their own ties and complications.

In the UK, Disney’s major consideration is its partnership with Sky, which offers Disney movies to stream on Sky Cinema – and NOW TV – with its own Sky Disney-branded channel. It’s a long-running, successful, valuable collaboration. With Sky holding first-run pay-TV and subscription rights to new Disney titles, launching Disney+ before then would not only leave Disney’s own platform with some things embarrassingly absent, but would also not do any favours for its relationship with Sky, which will have splashed some hefty cash on the exclusivity currently in place.

Comcast, which recently bought out Sky, isn’t a small business to negotiate with, so you can expect some hardball talks are going on behind the scenes before Disney determines the exact date to launch in the UK. But the House of Mouse’s existing subscription platform, DisneyLife, and Sky Cinema’s library is a helpful indicator of what might happen and when.

In the US, Disney recently outlined its Disney+ launch titles on Twitter, including such films as Frozen and Fantasia and such TV shows as the animated X-Men series. Taking a random selection of those movies – including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), Tron (1982), Return to Oz (1985), Jungle 2 Jungle (1997), Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (1997), Flubber (1997), Remember the Titans (2000), Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire (2000), Phantom of the Megaplex (2000), 102 Dalmatians (2000), Ice Princess (2005), Go Figure (2005), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Recess: School’s Out (2001), Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001) and Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) – they are all available on DisneyLife, which currently has 461 films and 125 TV shows to stream.

Around 40 films have been added to DisneyLife in the last few months. Sky, meanwhile, is slowly shedding its Disney line-up. Not all of them, however, are exclusives: the classic Cinderella, for example, will depart Sky Cinema in November 2019, but is available on DisneyLife already.

So what about next year? Leaving Sky at the end of January 2020 are Monsters, Inc., and Tron. In February 2020, Tinker Bell and the Legend of the NeverBeast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame I and II will depart. In March 2020, Into the Woods, The Muppet Movie, Tinker Bell, Bolt and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids are removed. In April 2020, Recess: All Growed Down, and in May 2020, Spooky Buddies, Blank Cheque, John Carter, Mary Poppins, Pete’s Dragon, Stitch! The Movie. Others depart in June and July 2020, including Up, while Aladdin and Hercules will be removed in August – all the way up to Incredibles 2, which, as it stands, is the final Disney movie to expire on Sky Cinema’s books in September 2020.

While Incredibles 2 isn’t currently on DisneyLife, Aladdin, Up and Hercules are already in the DisneyLife catalogue, along with Mary Poppins, which suggests that while Disney is presumably respectfully waiting for its agreement with Sky to run its course, the House of Mouse is happy to accept some staggered exclusivity. Coco is one notable title that Sky has exclusively to stream: it is available on Sky Cinema until 13th March 2020 and is not currently on DisneyLife. It is likely, then, that March 2020 is a natural launch window for Disney+ in the UK.

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