Disney is leaving Netflix: What does that mean for Star Wars?

Walt Disney Co. said on Tuesday it is launching two new streaming television services including one for its ESPN-branded sports channel, while ending its deal with Netflix as it shifts towards direct content distribution.

Disney said in its earnings release that the new service should be expected in late-2019.

The streaming services will give Disney "much greater control over our own destiny in a rapidly changing market", CEO Bob Iger told analysts on a conference call.

"The new service will become the exclusive home in the United States for subscription video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 slate, which includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and The Lion King from Disney live-action, along with other highly-anticipated movies", added Iger in prepared comments.

Netflix has said that desirable content is a big driver to growing its user base, so losing popular Disney content is a blow to the streaming giant.

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Several days before Disney officially announced its bold move, Netflix already made moves of its own. Disney content present on Netflix in Canada and global markets is held under separate deals.

Disney has not yet decided whether Marvel Universe features and Lucasfilm movies, which include the Star Wars franchise, will sit on the service. The results follow a 15% earnings increase to US$2.39 billion in the fiscal second quarter, which was driven by global box-office hits Beauty and the Beast and Rogue One, along with the successful opening of Shanghai Disney Resort.

Operating income at Disney's Cable Networks division, which includes the flagship ESPN brand, fell 23% to $1.5 billion, the company said, "due to higher programming costs, lower advertising revenue and severance and contract termination costs". Last August, Disney acquired a 33% stake in BAMTech, which is a spinoff from Major League Baseball Advanced Media, for $1 billion. The service will only exist in the USA, at least for the time being, though the DisneyLife streaming service already exists in the UK.

At some point, it isn't hard to see consumer getting frustrated with the multiplicity of services they have to subscribe to in order to put together a package of content for the family - which could be an opportunity for pay-TV providers to get them back.

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