Walt Disney Co. Announces New Streaming Service, Plans To Enter Crowded Market

The streaming service industry is getting even more crowded as Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) announced plans to launch a family-friendly streaming service in an effort to challenge the dominance of established players such as Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and rival upstarts such as Apple Inc.(NASDAQ:AAPL)

Disney says that its new streaming service, Disney Plus, will feature TV shows and movies from some of the world's most popular entertainment franchises, including the Marvel superheroes, Star Wars, Toy Story creator Pixar animation and the National Geographic channel. The new Disney streaming service will cost $6.99 U.S. a month and will launch on November 12 of this year.

Disney’s monthly price is cheaper than rival Netflix, which charges more than $15 per month for its most popular streaming plan. But the Disney service has a narrower focus on family-friendly shows and movies.

The company said it has struck deals with Roku Inc. and Sony Corp.(NYSE: SNE) to distribute Disney Plus on streaming devices and console gaming systems, and expects it to also be widely available on smart televisions, tablets and other outlets by the launch date.

Executives at Disney said they also see opportunities to take its ESPN+ sport streaming video service to Latin America and are looking into international expansion of its Hulu streaming video business, which offers movies and shows targeted to adults.

The entertainment giant is trying to transform itself from a cable television powerhouse into a leader of streaming media. Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said this past February that the streaming service is the company's "number-one priority."

Disney joins the streaming service market at a time when audiences are facing a host of choices, and monthly bills, for digital entertainment. Apple Inc., AT&T Inc.'s (NYSE:T) Warner Media and others have announced plans for new streaming services in recent weeks.

Disney said its digital push is in response to cord-cutting, the dropping of cable service that has hit its ESPN sports network and other channels hard, as well as the rise of Netflix Inc. The Silicon Valley-based company has amassed 139 million customers worldwide since it began digital streaming 12 years ago.

In a January regulatory filing, Disney reported losses of more than $1 billion for streaming-related investments in Hulu and technology company BAMtech. Disney had been supplying new movies such as Black Panther and Beauty and the Beast to Netflix after their runs in theaters but ended that arrangement this year to feed its own streaming service ambitions.