When streaming first emerged, it positioned itself as the great disrupter of cable. Folks weren’t too happy with cable at the time. It seemed costly and constricting, especially when juxtaposed with exciting new streaming channels. But over the years, the gap between streaming and cable has narrowed considerably. Fears that streaming is just cable, but now even more expensive began to emerge. And with every new development in the streaming world, it feels like there is truth to this concern. Most recently, The Information reported that Disney+ planned to introduce old-school style “TV channels” to its interface. (We saw this news via Gizmodo.) These “always-on” ad-supported Disney+ channels would emulate the current approach of FAST channels—minus, of course, the F. (That’s Free, for the uninitiated.) Here’s what The Information reported.

The X-Men get ready to fight the Sentinels in this scene from X-Men '97. Disney+ plans ad-supported old-school TV channels that could have marvel and star wars grouping.
Marvel Animation

In its article, The Information shared that Disney+ plans to add “live TV” channels to its interface. This content viewing format would operate similarly to how Tubi and other FAST(Free Ad-Supported Streaming Television) channels function. Disney+ would pre-program the channels with content that subscribers could tune into without making a specific decision on what to watch. In other words, if the report is true, Disney+ would add back in television channels as we’ve always known them. The Information notes channels might contain content groups such as  “classic Disney animated movies or animated films made by Pixar,” or additionally, Star Wars and Marvel channels.

The idea, of course, is for subscribers to watch a channel for an extended period of time and be served ads as they do. Of course, unlike other FAST channels, anything housed in Disney+’s interface “will likely require viewers to be Disney+ subscribers.” The Information notes that these old-school style TV channels are “part of the broader focus of streaming services to increase the amount of time subscribers spend on their apps, as the industry pivots from trying to sign up more people to trying to actually make money.” It’s worth noting that Disney+ has not confirmed or commented on this report.


Ultimately, there’s nothing specifically wrong with Disney+ or any other streamer adding in old-school-style TV channels for its content. Folks probably do enjoy mindless tuning into shows they might like watch grouped together. And there’s always that element of surprise that feels novel these days. However, the bigger picture this potential Disney+ move helps to paint is that cable and television, as we’ve always known them, are literally coming back. And this time, they’re segmented into four streamers that all continuously raise prices and lower the user experience, looking for greater profit. And that’s not such a pretty picture.