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Disney’s new streaming service will be called Disney+, chief executive says

(Richard Drew/AP)
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Disney’s new streaming service will be called Disney+ and is on track to launch next year, the company said Thursday.

The name aligns the service with ESPN+, the streaming platform recently launched by the Disney-owned sports giant, and ends the informal nicknames around Hollywood that had included such shorthand as Disneyflix, an allusion to streaming competitor Netflix. Disney’s chief executive and chairman, Robert Iger, made the announcement on the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call Thursday.

The service will be “very elegant and very brand-centric, and add navigational features that don’t exist on other platforms,” Iger told analysts, noting that he had recently visited the company’s BamTech subsidiary, which is developing Disney+'s technology, and found it “impressive.”

Iger described at least five content channels on Disney+: Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and National Geographic, the last of which will become part of Disney after the close of the Fox acquisition.

"We want to superserve the most ardent fans of those five brands,” he said.

The aim of the new direct-to-consumer service is to compete with Netflix, Apple and other streaming giants that have deep pockets and the ambition to dominate the original-video space. But the approach is different: Iger had previously noted that Disney’s streaming effort will aim for a smaller number of more-curated brand names, in contrast to Netflix’s volume play.

The service will feature original shows such as a Loki-centric Marvel series as well as several “Star Wars” properties, including a newly announced show with Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. It is distinct from Hulu, the long-standing streaming service of which Disney will assume majority control after the Fox deal closes. That platform will be filled with more upscale premium content from entities such as cable-channel FX and “The Shape of Water” studio Fox Searchlight.

The third leg in the tripod is ESPN+, which Iger said Thursday has garnered more than 1 million subscribers since launching in the spring with the promise of thousands of college basketball games, Major League Soccer matches and UFC fights, among other sports. “And we haven’t even really begun marketing it,” he said.

Iger also confirmed that talks are underway to secure back rights on existing library deals for Disney-owned titles. Potentially among those is Twentieth Century Fox’s output deal with HBO, which is supposed to run until 2022 but includes movies Disney would like to be able to offer sooner on its own service. Disney had previously announced that it would pull movies from Netflix.

An investor presentation in April will include more details on Disney+, Iger said.