Sony to Take Over Disney’s New and Existing Home Video Business

The move comes in the wake of Disney Movie Club shutting down

Peter Pan
Disney

Following the announcement that Disney Movie Club, a esoteric but essential Columbia House-like service that Disney ran for more than two decades, would be shutting down this summer, it has now been revealed that Disney is transitioning to a licensed model via an agreement with Sony Entertainment.

As part of this new agreement Sony will market, sell and distribute Disney’s new releases plus catalog titles on physical (including 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD) to consumers through retailers and distributors in the U.S. and Canada.

Disney will still regularly evaluate the goto market approach as the home entertainment business and the industry continue to rapidly evolve alongside consumer behavior. The agreement with Sony allows Disney to continue to offer films and TV shows via physical retailers/distributors and serve the customers in an efficient manner.

What makes this so staggering is that Disney home video has been a huge part of the company since it was introduced in the mid-1980’s, thanks to the leadership of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells. At the time, Disney animated features were released theatrically every seven years and completely taken out of the market in-between exhibitions.

What Eisner and Wells proposed was putting these titles out on the growing VHS market, eschewing the prohibitively expensive price point (meant more for video stores and other outlets than consumers) for a more attractive price point (usually around $30) and a limited availability window, which would drive consumer demand. The approach was a huge success.

From there, the home video market exploded, in part under the leadership of future CEO Bob Chapek, who got original titles into production specifically for the home video market, both with cheaply produced sequels to popular animated titles (everything from “Tarzan II” to “Cinderella III”) and for franchises all their own (like the “Air Bud” franchise which subsequently spawned the “Air Buddies” films).

For Disney to transition its home video output to a fully licensed agreement is both shocking and not entirely unfounded, given the lack of retailer support for physical media and the somewhat dwindling numbers.

If there is a silver lining to this situation it’s that there is the possibility of many more Disney catalog titles getting the 4K Ultra HD remastered treatment. Sony, after all, developed the technology behind the discs and the players, which are also the bedrock of its disc-based gaming system PlayStation 5. Let us pray for 4K remasters of all of your favorite Disney classics that haven’t been touched.

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