Disney closing TV channels on Sky, BT and Virgin

26 June 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior will all be removed from television line-ups from 1 October 2020.

The move will leave the streaming service Disney+ as the only place to watch Disney's content in the UK.

It means Sky, BT and Virgin Media customers will lose access to the channels in October, although they will be able to sign up for a separate Disney+ subscription.

The streaming service which launched in the UK in March is said to have 4.3 million subscribers already according to research from Omdia.

disney+ streaming service

Streaming only

Disney's decision to focus on their streaming service above traditional deals with pay TV providers comes as a surprising move.

Although their Disney+ streaming service launched in the US and Canada, it has only been active in the UK since 24 March.

It means the jump from supplying TV channels and streaming services to being just a streaming service is being taken after only a few months of subscriber activity, yet their willingness to walk away from negotiations suggests increased confidence in their Disney+ platform.

It's worth noting that National Geographic and Fox, both part of the wider Disney family, will remain on pay TV services, even though some National Geographic content is available on Disney+ too.

Lockdown boost

Disney+ launched in the UK the day after lockdown was announced, giving parents an excellent way of keeping kids occupied with their favourite shows and movies.

At £5.99 per month, it's unsurprising that subscriptions have rocketed during the lockdown and quarantine period, with Ombia's research revealing the service had amassed 4.3 million subscribers in just five weeks.

Disney will be banking on many of those subscribers staying around as the lockdown restrictions end and perhaps the younger audience demographic will help as parents keep a service that has proved popular with their children rather than cancel the subscription.

Thanks to Sky Q's partnership with Disney+, Sky subscribers are still able to view Disney+ through the Sky Q platform, albeit by paying the extra £5.99 monthly fee.

O2 was announced as the exclusive mobile partner for Disney+ back in March. Under that deal, new and upgrading customers are given six months access for free while existing customers can add Disney+ to their plan for £5.99 per month and get £2 off their monthly bill - effectively offering the platform for £3.99.

Streaming battles

The subscription video on demand (SVoD) market has evolved dramatically in the last year as Apple TV+ and BritBox launched in November 2019 followed by Disney+ in March.

If Ombia's research that Disney+ has gained a 16.8% share of the UK subscriber market amounting to around 4.3 million, it means they have likely leapfrogged Now TV in just a few months.

Ofcom's most recent Media Nations report released in August 2019 showed Now TV had 1.62 million subscribers, although it's feasible their subscriber numbers have also swelled because of the coronavirus lockdown.

We reviewed Now TV's streaming service alongside the ones offered by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in this guide.

What is interesting is the performance of Disney+ in comparison to its predecessor DisneyLife which only had 90,000 subscribers at the time of Ofcom's research.

It's possible that Disney+ launched at just the right time in the UK to ride the wave of lockdown boredom, but figures may yet fall if an annual cost of £70 is too much for households to bear on top of their other subscriptions.

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