This week Disney began its global rollout of ‘Star’ as part of its Disney+ service.
In the US, Disney has a family of packages including Hulu and ESPN+, offering a package deal for all of them. But the rights situation is complicated. Although Hulu is basically owned by Disney now, it was originally a joint industry consortium with partners including News Corporation (including Fox) and NBC. In essence it was originally a cross-network catchup service. But over time it morphed into its own streaming operation, still including network catchup shows, but offering originals. It’s the home, for example, of FX – which probably has the most quality adult-focused series in the Disney portfolio.
But Disney couldn’t just rollout Hulu to the world like that. A large proportion of the shows that are on US-Hulu have different rights deals elsewhere. So Disney has used the ‘Star’ branding it acquired when during its acquisition of Fox properties from News Corp. Star is a recognised brand across much of Asia.
Disney is giving Star to all Disney+ subscribers, although the price is going up as a consequence – £5.99 to £7.99 (delayed for existing subscribers).
In Europe, Disney seems to be using Star as an outlet for:
- Series it has decided are too adult for Disney+; Love, Victor is the notable example here, although many are questioning whether that has been shifted across to Disney’s ‘adult’ service just because it deals with homosexuality.
- Archive series that Disney owns; think of series like Lost, The X-Files, Bones, Castle, Scrubs, Modern Family. They mostly aired on ABC or Fox in the US, and were produced by ABC Studios or Fox TV when they were produced.
- Some ESPN docs; mostly from their 30 for 30 series. Lance is on there (it’s also on iPlayer right now), as is OJ: Made in America. That too has recently been on iPlayer again, and as with Lance and many other 30 for 30 docs, shows up on BT Sport who have a deal with ESPN including co-branding a channel.
- Twentieth Century Fox Films; think Independence Day, Moulin Rouge and The Sound of Music.
To be honest, it’s the last category I’m most disappointed with. The back catalogue stuff is just that. Much of it has floated around other streaming services over recent years, and indeed is probably available on other channels right now.
But they could surely have dug deeper into the Twentieth Century Fox catalogue for films? While I mentioned The Sound of Music, that’s the only “old” film I could see. You’d be hard pushed to find anything else made before the mid-90s. Indeed, while there are some recent gems in there, the list has the feel of a DVD rack in a service station or a really underwhelming branch of Blockbuster c.2001.
I’m pretty sure the price rise is really to pay for the vast amounts of Marvel/Star Wars series that Disney has coming. Because I’m not sure that old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy are worth even £2 a month.
Here are just a random selection of Fox films that would make the service much better: The Abyss, Broadcast News, Raising Arizona, Highlander, ‘Paris, Texas’, the original Planet of the Apes films, Fantastic Voyage, The Leoaprd, The Seven Year Itch…
You get the idea, and I’ve not remotely explored the full history of this studio.
I just hope that Disney begin to rollout much more of the Fox catalogue into this service in due course, and that they do a better job of curating it than Star is doing right now. At the moment, the homepage has 15 lines of films and TV, the contents of which fall into multiple categories. It’s just a really shallow offering.
I mean the first film is the Cult Cinema category is the truly awful The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a film so bad, you can really understand why Alan Moore hates to have his name on anything. Indeed the entirety of Cult Classics, is the film above, Waitress (don’t know it), Edward Scissorhands (decent), Lost (its direction), William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (cult?), and two Percy Jackson films (very much a failed Harry Potter-style franchise).
So come on Disney. I know the focus is on the Star Wars and Marvel stuff, but from what I can tell, HBO Max in the US has done a decent job digging through the Warner archive and presenting it on the platform. Show some love to your Fox archive!