Disney Plus explained
(Image credit: Disney)
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When Disney didn’t reveal a UK release date for Disney Plus during the streaming service’s unveiling in 2019, a lot of us worried we’d be in for a long wait until it launched here.
And, well, we were right.
The Disney Twitter account eventually revealed the release date for the service in the UK and Ireland – March 31, 2020. Now, though, that date has changed to March 24, a week earlier than initially planned.
We also know the price now, too: £5.99 per month or £59.99 per year. Subscribers to the UK-only Disney Life service will presumably be migrated over to Disney Plus, but Disney hasn’t elaborated on how that’ll work yet.
Still, it should mean that the UK and other countries will get a bumper selection of Disney Plus originals when the service does arrive here, since there’s no reason to roll out shows like The Mandalorian on a weekly basis.
Below, we’ll talk you through everything we know about Disney Plus’s UK launch.
Disney Plus UK release date: it’s changed
Disney Plus has a brand new release date in the UK: March 24, a week earlier than initially planned. It launches in Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria and Switzerland at the same time.
It’s been a long old wait for Disney Plus to arrive in the UK, but it’s getting close now.
As you’d expect, people haven’t exactly been happy about getting the streaming service – and shows like The Mandalorian and films like Lady and the Tramp – four months after everyone else. If you’ve tried to avoid The Mandalorian spoilers in the last few months, you’ll know it’s been hell on Earth.
That said, although many Disney fans in Europe might’ve felt a bit left out by the staggered launch, Disney fans in South America and Asia will be doubly disappointed as they still have yet to get a Disney Plus release date for the service for Brazil, Japan, Argentina and dozens of other Disney-loving countries.
It does feel like the delayed rollout of the service has made piracy Disney Plus’s worst enemy, even knowing a firm date is on the horizon for many European countries.
We saw the UK release date for Rick & Morty Season 4 brought forward after fan backlash over the delay, but doing so for a whole platform such as Disney Plus was likely too big a task. After all, a lot of Disney movies were still on Sky over the holidays, including most of the Star Wars films.
The delay is presumably more to do with available programming than anything else. Still, hopefully the delay means all episodes of The Mandalorian will arrive on day one, rather than rolling out weekly as they have in the US.
Disney Plus: UK price and plans explained
Disney has confirmed that Disney Plus will cost £59.99 for an annual subscription, or £5.99 per month. Those are the two available tiers, and you can cancel at any time. Unlike in the US, where it’s bundled in with ESPN and Hulu, in the UK Disney has so far only been announced as a standalone service.
Disney Plus UK: expansion takes time, we guess
The best point of comparison for these release dates is in other global streaming services that have had staggered releases outside of the US.
Netflix, for instance, first launched in the US in 1998 as a DVD rental service. It didn’t make the move to online streaming until many years later – and it wasn’t until 2010 that the platform was able to expand beyond US borders.
The first international territory was the US’s close neighbour, Canada – where it launched in 2010 with a lower subscription cost and much more limited library of titles, given the difficulty and expense of obtaining streaming rights abroad. It’s hard to tell how this factor will affect Disney Plus. In Australia, for example, Disney launched with more Star Wars movies than the US.
2011 also saw Netflix expand into South America, as well as the Caribbean. It wasn’t until 2012 that Netflix came to Europe, launching in the UK and Ireland, as well as Scandinavia. Now, of course, Netflix streams across huge swathes of the planet, supporting 23 languages in over 190 countries.
Disney Plus got more of a head start, given that it’s jumping right into a streaming platform. It clearly has its sights on European expansion, with the service landing in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain in March 2020.
It was surprising, though, to see the UK delayed the same amount, given English-speaking audiences don’t require the same kind of extensive localisation process as most of Europe or Asia, but again, it’s likely to do with available content.
Disney Plus UK: our original predictions of its release
Disney had said it plans to bring its platform to “all major markets within the first two years” of the platform’s life (via ScreenRant).
Our original prediction was early- or mid-2020, which was confirmed by the official March 31, 2020 launch date.
Naturally Disney wouldn’t actively want to miss out on UK revenue, and these issues are more complicated than flipping a switch for different regions – but the delay won’t be good for English-speaking fans, or those wanting to prevent piracy around one of this year’s most anticipated TV series.