The streaming wars start Nov 12 when Disney comes to Canada

The Walt Disney Company will launch its streaming entertainment service in Canada on Nov. 12 for $8.99 per month, and it will likely end up being a major force in the entertainment landscape.According to research by the Toronto-based Solutions Research Group (SRG), at the $8.99 price point, 30 per cent of internet-connected households in Canada will consider subscribing to Disney+.“About half of those, we think, would be quick prospects in the first year to 18 months, so about 1.65-1.7 million subscribers,” said Kaan Yigit, president and research director for SRG.“So to put that in context, Netflix now has 6.5 million in the Canadian marketplace. So it’s a quarter of Netflix within a year to 18 months. That’s a lot of households.”At $8.99, the Disney+ service will be substantially cheaper than Netflix’s standard $13.99 plan in Canada, and Disney has a deep library of content to draw on, including the Marvel superhero movies, the Star Wars franchise, all of Disney’s own movies and TV shows, plus The Simpsons.The launch of Disney+ in November is arguably the real beginning of the so-called “streaming wars” as major companies all vie for a share of the streaming entertainment market.Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are already in the market, but in addition to the Disney service, Apple, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and a startup called Quibi are all planning to launch their own streaming products.For Disney, Canada and the Netherlands will be among the first countries to receive the streaming service, with Australia and New Zealand being added a week later.“My sense of it is that Canada ends up being a low-risk trial market before you go into maybe less familiar global markets,” Yigit said.“It’s not a high-return market in the sense that it’s not a huge population, but it’s low-risk. They probably looked across the titles that they had and said, ‘y’know, 80 per cent of this is free and clear, so let’s do this.’”Many of the details remain fuzzy.Broadly speaking, each of the big players in video entertainment have two options right now; they can either licence the rights to their content for fees, or they can hold it back as an exclusive item for their own streaming service. For example, NBCUniversal will be taking back The Office from Netflix, so it can be the backbone of a new streaming service.But different countries have different licensing agreements, which is why HBO already operates its own streaming service in the U.S., but in Canada that’s part of the Crave streaming service owned by Bell Media.Because of these factors, it’s not clear what Disney+ will look like in Canada.“We immediately started emailing Disney, and we’re going to find out eventually what it is,” said Brahm Eiley, founder of Convergence Research Group, which follows telecom, internet and technology issues.“In the nitty gritty, it gets really complicated in terms of what’s going to be offered.”For example, the Disney+ website lists five recognizable brand names which will form the backbone of the service at launch: Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and Disney itself.But exactly which Star Wars movies or TV shows are available in Canada could be impacted by a 2017 “multi-year” licencing deal with Corus Entertainment for the Canadian rights to Star Wars properties.Eiley said in the short term, Corus will likely be one of the big losers from Disney’s decision to launch in Canada, and not just because of Star Wars.“Corus, essentially, has been the purveyor of Disney — they run The Disney Network here,” Eiley said. “So the question is, what happens to all that?”As various competing services launch, and the streaming wars really ramp up, one of the likely outcomes is more people shifting away from traditional cable or satellite TV.But on that front, Eiley said this isn’t necessarily bad news for the big telecoms in Canada.“It’s a higher margin business to do the internet anyway. The TV business has been increasingly more challenging,” he said.“They’re effectively charging more for internet access than TV, so they’ve been able to pull a huge rabbit out of their hat.”• Email: jmcleod@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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