Disney+ certainly kicked off 2022 with quite a bang. In March, within the span of a week, the streaming company announced a few major updates. First, Disney+ launched parental controls, which coincided with its grislier Marvel slate of TV shows arriving from their previous streaming home at Netflix. (These shows include Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and The Punisher.) And then it revealed plans to launch an ad-supported subscription tier, which arrives in the US later in 2022 and globally in 2023. While there are still a lot of details under wraps—including price point—it sounds as though Disney is already setting some stark parameters on the kinds of ads they’ll accept on their platform.
How Disney+ Plans to Use Ads
According to Variety, the Disney+ ad-supported tier won’t feature a deluge of 30-second spots throughout an episode. The company is allegedly aiming to limit ads to four minutes for its hour-long or less content. This is actually a pretty contained model and would likely break down to something reasonable enough. It’s also a stark contrast to Hulu’s ad-supported model which has historically featured a whole lot of (very loud) ads.
Additionally, it seems the company plans to forgo ads altogether on profiles suggesting a kid is watching. Considering Disney+ does have a separate base profile setting for kids, it makes sense to scrap ads for kids while their parents’ profile still features ad breaks. Limiting ads to the adult—or at least not young child—profiles would also limit the headache of having to specifically cater age-appropriate ads to young eyes.
However, for all profiles, Disney+ will not accept ads featuring politics or alcohol. Variety cites this as keeping the platform more family-friendly, but the company is probably trying to avoid controversy by completely rejecting political ads. Additionally, ads from rival studios and platforms are also barred from airing on Disney+. This means we won’t be seeing a sweeping Star Trek: Strange New Worlds TV spot while watching The Mandalorian season three. It makes sense that the company is limiting the competition from its ads, of course. Plus, Disney owns so many properties, there’s an endless amount of in-house content to promote.
Disney+’s Ad-Supported Tier’s Cost
In its March 2022 press release, Disney didn’t share how much the new ad-supported tier will cost. But it noted the price is lower. Disney+ currently costs $7.99 per month or $80 for an annual subscription. The specific timing of release and the cost will likely be forthcoming in the next several months. In the press release, Kareem Daniel, Chairman, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, called the new tier a “win for everyone.” Specifically, he mentions the Disney+ ad-supported tier’s ability to help the platform reach a broader audience.
He said, “Expanding access to Disney+ to a broader audience at a lower price point is a win for everyone – consumers, advertisers, and our storytellers. More consumers will be able to access our amazing content. Advertisers will be able to reach a wider audience, and our storytellers will be able to share their incredible work with more fans and families.”
It’s also part of the company’s ambitious growth plan. The press release also notes that Disney sees the new tier as a way to reach its next Disney+ subscriber benchmark. It’s a lofty 230-260 million subscribers by the end of the 2024 fiscal year. (The fiscal year ends on June 30, 2024.) Disney+ ended 2021 with 130 million subscribers worldwide. So they’re about halfway there.
It certainly makes sense that Disney+ would eventually launch an ad-supported tier. But does this mean we’re also in for a price increase on the ad-free front?
Disney+ as the Flagship Streaming Platform
Disney currently owns and operates a trio of streaming platforms: Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+. While the youngest in the mix, it certainly looks like the company sees Disney+ as their flagship platform.
Between the parental controls and this new tier, I can’t help but wonder if this is a giant push for Disney+ to become more central and self-sufficient. Or at least market it as a more specific kind of content hub. Of course, Disney+ didn’t need parental controls at launch as it boasted largely family-friendly content. But as license agreements with other streaming platforms expire, its own library, especially its titles with more mature content, are arriving in full force. At one point, it seemed like it’s grittier or more risqué material—or whatever the company deems so—would’ve shifted to Hulu. (That’s what happened with Love, Victor. Not to mention the curious cancellation of the Lizzie McGuire reboot over mature content.) But now everything can remain in the Disney+ ecosystem.
As Disney+ makes moves, we’ll be on the lookout for new pricing and an ad-supported Disney+ tier launch date.
Originally published on March 4, 2022.