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With Europe Launch Set, Disney Plus Will Enter a Crowded Field With Killer Content, Analysts Say

Variety — Stewart Clarke

With Disney Plus now set for launch in Europe next spring, analysts say that the service’s powerhouse lineup – spanning “Star Wars,” Marvel, Pixar, Disney and National Geographic content – should position it strongly in the region’s increasingly crowded and competitive on-demand landscape.

British-based consultancy Digital TV Research forecasts that, by 2025, Western Europe will account for a quarter of Disney Plus customers worldwide, with about as many subscribers as pay-TV broadcaster Sky currently has. By that point, the Disney Plus library is expected to boast 620 movies and 10,000 show episodes.

The service is set to bow in North America and the Netherlands on Nov. 12 and in New Zealand one week later. On Thursday, in an analyst call following the company’s latest quarterly results, Disney chief Bob Iger announced March 31, 2020, as the rollout date for Disney Plus “in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain and a number of other countries in the region.”

There will be 500 movies and 7,500 hours of TV content on the service at launch, including 30 seasons of “The Simpsons,” the “Toy Story” films, the “Star Wars” movies and spinoffs, and classic Disney animation.

“Every home in the world is familiar with the brand,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, told Variety. “Its international rollout will be comprehensive and its content lineup is impressive, and it’s affordable. By comparison, HBO Max is not expected to start in several key international territories due to exclusive deals with pay-TV operators.”

Digital TV Research forecasts that Disney Plus will have 101 million paying subscribers by 2025. The total in Western Europe will be 25 million by that point, it estimates, including 6 million in the U.K., 4.3 million in Germany, and 3.8 million in France.

In terms of which content will be most popular, market research firm SimilarWeb has attempted to track what users in the Netherlands have been watching since Disney launched a trial run of Disney Plus there in mid-September. SimilarWeb’s data suggest that, of the 10 most-watched pieces of content, six are series and four are feature films. “Avengers: Infinity War” ranked first overall, followed by the series “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”

SimilarWeb further estimated that, within less than three weeks of its trial launch, Disney Plus was installed on 5.35% of all Android devices in the Netherlands.

Disney would not comment on subscriber forecasts, but Iger did speak broadly about findings from the Netherlands trial. “The demographics were far broader than a lot of people expected them to be,” he said. “This is well beyond kids and family….This is a four-quadrant product, with adult men and women as well as kids [and] families watching or using the service.”

Iger added that “features including the 4K, the HDR movies were very, very popular,” and the “fact that you can have four concurrent live streams [was] also very popular.”

In Europe, the Disney Plus rollout will be overseen by Jan Koeppen, the former Fox Networks Group Europe and Africa chief, who is now president of Disney in the EMEA region.

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