Mickey mugs the big screen

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The Disney Corporation is known for two things: Family-friendly entertainment, and taking no prisoners. It is at the top table of world media as much through the second attribute as the first.

Nowhere is its ruthlessness more evident than in its exploitation of the direct route to its consumers. Going direct over the heads of its various traditional channels of distribution was always a double-edged sword. Could it keep up income from the distributors it was about to turn into competitors, while simultaneously launching services that could leave them in the dust? It had to bet its brand and the content it represented outweighed the convenience and familiarity of its erstwhile allies’ routes to market.

It decided to take the shot sooner and bigger than some rivals. It needn’t have worried, its badge is up there with those yellow arches and the bitten fruit, and its product is just as popular. It has succeeded beyond its best forecasts and now has reorientated its whole structure to focus on D2C.

It was assumed the big casualties would be the pay-TV franchises deprived of Disney’s compelling content. But, while it doesn’t help, operators had already realised they needed to work in a world where they would be pipe providers and content organisers, rather than aggregators. Maybe they could even be better at their day job of providing basic infrastructure and service if not entranced by pretending they were in the content and entertainment business?

Cinemas (or movie theatres, depending on your locale) were never meant to be in the crosshairs. Sure, they’re an alternative distributor, but you can still make big money on a hit (tickets are per seat, not per household) and even for relative flops ‘the movies’, with their reviews and promotion, are all good publicity to raise awareness for when the product moves to streaming. And it’s not like Disney doesn’t appreciate the realities of the flesh and blood destination business – its own amusement parks have been badly hit in the pandemic.

So, it takes a cool, tough, and very Disney-esque decision making process to condemn the cinema industry to a near death experience and take all your ready-to-premiere movies and PPV them out on your own channel. It’s flicking an enormous V sign to the industry you have, hitherto, had a completely symbiotic relationship with.

I suppose the moral is that, in this over-the-top D2C world, relying on Disney, or any other content provider, for your business can be detrimental to your health.


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