Disney to launch streaming service as online viewing figures surge

Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian and Frozen among shows available to millions under coronavirus lockdown

Disney is pressing ahead with the UK and western European launch of its Netflix challenger, Disney+, on Tuesday as streaming and TV viewing surges with coronavirus keeping millions of people at home.

Disney, which is set to release online shows including the hit Star Wars live-action spin-off The Mandalorian and the movie Frozen, is launching Disney+ in the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

“With much of the UK looking for entertainment while they are stuck at home, Disney+ is likely to be a big hit,” said Shiv Pabari, director of media and entertainment at Simon-Kucher & Partners. “Families in particular will be excited by the content offered.”

However, the launch in France has been delayed until 7 April at the request of the government to reduce pressure on broadband networks. Disney, Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video and YouTube have all agreed to reduce the speed they deliver video streams to customers across Europe for a month to reduce congestion as online usage soars.

As the UK woke up to the first day without schools, families turned to a live-streamed PE class by Joe Wicks, better known as The Body Coach, which attracted more than 1.6m views on Monday morning.

“We had heard that Joe Wicks was saying he was going to be the nation’s PE teacher and we thought it would be good for the kids now we are all at home,” said Eren Dervish. “It worked for us. It was a fun, motivational start to the day.”

😀 PE WITH JOE starting Monday morning at 9am on my YOUTUBE channel: The Body Coach TV 📺 Please please share this with as many people as you can ❤️ Our kids need this more than ever. Share it on your stories, your wall, your Twitter, whatsapp and school newsletters ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ioFGeFRpuK

— The Body Coach (@thebodycoach) March 19, 2020

Analytics firm App Annie has recorded double-digit percentage increases in the amount of hours spent using entertainment and video streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon’s Prime Video, in recent weeks in European countries hit badly by the virus such as Italy.

The same pattern is expected to be seen in the UK with TV viewing figures already soaring this weekend following the government’s move to shut pubs, bars and restaurants on Friday.

ITV’s latest edition of Saturday Night Takeaway, which was filmed without a studio audience this weekend, drew the biggest audience since the show launched in 2002.

However, the audience ratings are not translating to increased profits with ITV warning on Monday that advertisers continue to pull their spend. The company, which has seen its market value more than halve since the start of the year, has scrapped its dividend, cut its £1.1bn programming budget and is seeking further cost cuts to save £300m to shore up its balance sheet.

• This article was amended on 24 March 2020. An earlier version mistakenly said in text and subheading that Frozen 2 would be immediately available on the Disney+ platform.

Contributor

Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

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