Disney’s $16 Billion-Plus Bet: An Avalanche of New Content for Streaming – and Movie Theaters Too

”It’s not HBO Max that has to worry; it’s Netflix,“ a top agent says

After a brutal pandemic year, The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday came out swinging with a recovery plan based on an avalanche of new content distributed across all of its platforms — including movie theaters that have been battered by shutdowns this year. The company plans to accelerate the growth in streaming-first films and TV shows, spending up to $16 billion annually within four years on Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ in a drive to challenge category leader Netflix.

Disney watchers may have been expecting the company to adopt a strategy similar to the one rival WarnerMedia announced last week — diverting its entire 2021 slate of 17 feature films to its nascent streaming platform, HBO Max, on the same day as they open in theaters.

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Diane Haithman

Diane Haithman

Senior Entertainment Business Reporter • diane@thewrap.com • @dhaithman Diane came to TheWrap from a position as Staff Reporter at The Los Angeles Business Journal, covering Entertainment/Media, Philanthropy and Style. Diane was a Los Angeles Times Staff Writer for two decades, covering arts, culture and the TV industry. Her novel Dark Lady of Hollywood was published to critical acclaim by Harvard Square Editions in 2014. She serves on the adjunct faculty of Emerson College Los Angeles and has taught feature writing at USC. Diane is co-author of the nonfiction book The Elder Wisdom Circle Guide for a Meaningful Life (Penguin/Plume 2007) and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists-Los Angeles Chapter.