Monday, January 18, 2016

5 Streaming Video Services I'd Like to See in 2016: Vault Disney?

I've been complaining for weeks about the disappointing deterioration of catalog content on Netflix in general and the particular loss of a batch of Disney library movies in January. It's clear the Disney/Netflix deal isn't what I hoped it would be, with tons of material still withheld from Netflix.

(Note that many of the titles that left happened to show up on Disney Family Movies, a premium cable on demand offering, this month. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Maybe those titles return after they cycle through DFM, but we'll get to that later.)

What if it isn't Netflix being too cheap or Disney being too stingy that is keeping so many old movies and TV shows away? What if Disney is planning its own standalone "over the top" channel?

An existing Roku Disney channel is basically just a hype machine, with clips, promos, and an assortment of complete episodes of recent shows. I am talking about a true Vault Disney, a channel that would dig deep into the House of Mouse's archives and unleash some of the stuff it's hoarding. Ever since Disney killed off its acclaimed Treasures DVD line, which itself was focused on collectors and not the general public, its library content has been neglected. There are super-niche products like the Disney Movie Club and the overpriced Disney Family Movies (a handful of movies and shorts each month for about the price I think they should charge for a much more comprehensive service), and of course we'll get Platinum editions of the prestige animated classics, but there is a plethora of material that is largely unseen.

Disney is one of if not the only content provider that could make big money by using its name to push an SVOD service. Even if it tightens up the flow of new TV shows to Netflix, it has stuff like "Hannah Montana" and the like it could park on a new channel. And where is all the "Walt Disney Presents" from over the years, or "Mickey Mouse Club" or "Davy Crockett"? How about that endless stream of Dean Jones films? And for the love of Odin, where are the 1960s Marvel cartoons I've been anticipating for years? It's not like anyone is cranking this out on Blu-Ray. And you never see any of it on Disney Channel. Why not monetize it?

Disney has so much stuff and has such a powerful brand name that it could hold back the new theatricals for Netflix, rotate some stuff out for Disney Family Movies, and still give subscribers a whole lot of value in a Vault Disney. I think most people would be reluctant to pay 5 bucks a month for Fox Classics, but Disney could probably get a lot more from families all over the world just by loosening the vault doors a little and making this stuff available.

I mean, I would love to see pre-1980 content on such a service, but Disney could throw in plenty from recent times to make it a true "big tent" offering. The original Disney Channel was a premium cable channel showing material for the whole family but including a variety of programming, from classic Mickey Mouse shorts to licensed "Ozzie and Harriet" reruns. Vault Disney wouldn't even have to pay for content. It already has everything! The big catch that I can see is that there may be a lot of pre-existing deals giving other outlets first crack at it.

But what if Disney is starting to look forward to a time when it controls all of it and can save some gems for its own streaming service, whether exclusive or not? I would love to see something like this, as long as it's not a total ripoff like Disney Family Movies. If Vault Disney could adapt to the current SVOD landscape and offer a wide array of library materials for a reasonable monthly fee, I think it could make some money. I think it could have its cake and eat it, too, saving some things for that Netflix deal (It looks like Netflix isn't adding catalog content from Disney each month anymore, anyway) and for other clients while still going directly to the customer.

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