Disney+ is now available in several European countries, however there are issues with the way its Star Wars content is being released.
While the US and Canada (and The Netherlands) have been enjoying Disney+ from day one, the rest of the world has been waiting patiently. On March 24, four months after its initial launch, the streaming service finally made its way to parts of Europe, including the (UK, Ireland, and Italy), with others joining the fun soon after (France gained access on April 7th).
I, like most readers of this site, downloaded the relevant apps across the relevant devices straight away, and dove into the treasure trove of content immediately.
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The great thing about Disney+ is that it is, by its very existence, an archive of all things owned by Disney. Every Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars film is there. Every Disney Channel series is available. Even the weird “straight to VHS” sequels that cropped up every week in the ‘90s is on it.
The best thing of all? All the Star Wars content in existence is here.
Well, nearly all the Star Wars content in existence. There are some notable, albeit understandable, omissions however. Droids, the Ewok films and cartoon, and the 2002 Clone Wars series all fail to make the cut. Curiously, however, the European roll out seems to have even more missed, or temporarily held back. And it’s doing the service as a whole a disservice.
I’ll start with a fairly innocuous gripe; Star Wars Resistance is not on the platform as of right now. The other two animated series, The Clone Wars and Rebels, are, and I’m not entirely sure why this is the case.
My only assumption is that it’s still airing on DisneyXD in the UK, and often streaming rights play a part in these types of decisions. However, neither the first, nor the second, season are available, which doesn’t mesh with existing precedent.
The first season, and not the second season, of the new Ducktales series is available in full on the platform for example. I’m unsure when it’ll be made available, either which is baffling in itself.
Now onto the cool and mysterious elephant in the room immediately: The Mandalorian is, right now, the flagship Disney+ exclusive series. I’m sure High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has its followers, and I’ve really enjoyed The Imagineering Story, but Jon Favreau’s series is the main attraction. It has been since the platform launched in North America back in November 2019.
Seemingly, the entire world wanted to see how the first season would play out, however it was limited to three regions during its initial release window. As a result, it became one of the most pirated shows of 2019.
Yo ho, yo ho…
You can look at it and put the blame on those pirating the series. However, when you’ve a highly anticipated series on your hands, and no legitimate means of watching said series outside of three territories, all the while official Star Wars social media channels openly discuss plot points and spoilers on a weekly basis, you’re leaving the rest of the world little choice.
I want to make a simple point: everybody who wanted to watch The Mandalorian already has. Of course, the platform is now available in many more countries, so those who opted to avoid piracy methods can now digest the series guilt free. If you didn’t pirate the series, and if you somehow managed to dodge the endless “Baby Yoda” memes online, you’re rewarded with the series being released on a weekly basis, as it was four months ago.
To me, this decision is as baffling as it is frustrating. There are arguments that this decision has been made to stop people from binging the series during their seven-day trial and not renewing.
That just doesn’t wash with me. I’ll refer you to my earlier point: everyone who wanted to watch The Mandalorian already has. Everyone who managed to wait is being rewarded with more waiting.
The same can be said for the greatly anticipated final season of The Clone Wars, which began airing on February 21; a full month before the European roll-out began. That season is still ongoing, so it would make sense to make the already released episodes available at launch, and to simultaneously release the rest of the season across all territories. Disney chose not to do this, instead releasing two episodes a week, every week, until episode eight. Those who want to watch The Clone Wars will watch as it’s released. Those who choose to wait are rewarded with more waiting.
I fully accept that Disney+ is opting for a weekly release of its exclusive series. The practice, while I don’t totally agree with it, does have its benefits. Having something to look forward to each week is nice, and the days in between watches allows the content to truly sink in. For series that already exist, however? I don’t understand the logic behind the decision to carry that out, and the excuses for it just don’t add up.
Disney claims to have 50 million active Disney+ users as of April 2020. That’s just under a third of Netflix’s 169 million, and Amazon Prime Video’s 150 million. It’s worth mentioning that both services have years on Disney+, and are available in many more territories.
Amazon Prime Video is also packaged in with Amazon Prime, so there’s every chance that number has significantly fewer actual users. Regardless, 50 million users in just under five months is a pretty large number. Once you can only expect to grow as more exclusive content is added to the platform. The suggestion that people would only use the seven-day trial to binge a series and not renew isn’t happening in practice. And, if that was the case, those people will surely just wait until the entire series is up.
Hope for the future
It is, of course, something that can’t be changed now that the wheels are in motion. One can only hope that, moving forward, new releases are made available simultaneously worldwide on release.