Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Disney remains silent over why Africa remains ostracised from its Disney+ streaming service, touts its 'regional commitment' to the UK and Europe whilst ignoring the A in its EMEA region.

by Thinus Ferreira

You can buy a fast fashion T-shirt for R99.99 adorned with a Baby Yoda print from The Mandalorian on Disney+ from your local Pick n Pay Clothing store - just don't ask or expect Disney to actually answer why you can't get Disney+ in South Africa, or when its video streaming service that remains non-existent might launch in Africa. 

The Walt Disney Company on Wednesday chose to continue its self-imposed silence about why Africa remains conspicuously absent from the global rollout plans of its Disney+ and Star video streaming service that is now accessible by consumers in countries across the globe except for the African continent.

Neither The Walt Disney Company, Walt Disney Company Africa, or executives for The Walt Disney Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region have said a word or have felt the need to give any information or explanation as to the absence of Disney+ since its announcement and waves of regionalised launches of its streaming service.

While South African consumers and citizens across Africa have access to the internet, have access to smartphones and apps, and while Disney is aggressively and bizarrely pushing merchandise and branded clothing in Africa for Disney+ shows like The Mandalorian that people can't actually legally watch, Mouse House execs are continuing their stony silence on why the video streamer isn't available in Africa.

On Wednesday Disney execs once again chose to ignore the elephant marked "A" on the map and in the room when Africa wasn't mentioned once in Disney's virtual press event with journalists from the United Kingdom including Europe.

Disney executives - including Jan Koeppen, president of The Walt Disney Company EMEA; Liam Keelan, Disney EMEA's vice president of original productions; and Luke Bradley-Jones, senior vice president of direct-to-consumer and general manager for Disney+ EMEA - on Wednesday held an in-studio done, virtual presentation for the media. 

They touted the expanding Disney+ rollout across Europe, the tie-in rollout of Star from 23 February in Europe and further international territories, Disney's slate of Europe Disney+ Originals, as well as plans to announce British Disney+ Originals soon.

And Africa? They just get to wear the Baby Yoda branded T-shirts, Mando.

Jan Koeppen said that Star - as the 6th branded tile within the Disney+ service and essentially the global version of America's Hulu streamer - will make Disney+ even "bigger, bolder and even more exciting" when it gets added to the existing 5 tiles of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.

This "bigger, bolder and even more exciting" claim is, of course, irrelevant to consumers in South Africa and across the wider African continent who don't even have Disney+ and can't watch The Mandalorian but got the T-shirt.  

With the addition of Star to Disney+, Disney is hiking the subscription fee in Europe, and comparable TV markets to South Africa like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that all already have access to Disney+.

These countries are getting Star added in from 23 February with Latin America will get Star in June.

Star as the "adult" entertainment section of Disney+ is stacked with self-produced and owned content from Disney Television Studios, Touchstone, ABC and Searchlight Pictures, as well as the rebranded banner brands and their content from 20th Century Studios, 20th Television and FX after Disney bought 21st Century Fox in 2019.

Yesterday Disney announced the slate of its first 10 Disney+ Original commissions from out of Europe. Of course with Disney+ nowhere on the map in Africa, the idea of new productions commissioned out of Africa for the streamer is an even bigger hakuna matata.

Disney is set to announce Disney+ Originals done from the United Kingdom soon.

Liam Keelan said that Disney's European commissions for Disney+ "underscores Disney's regional commitment to outstanding and diverse talent, reflecting our desire to work with the very best storytellers in the industry". 

Absent on Wednesday was any utterances from Liam Keelan about any regional commitments in relation to anything to do with Africa where pay-TV subscribers recently lost the Disney XD and FOX Life TV channels.

Besides Disney+, global streaming services still to possibly launch in South Africa are Discovery Inc.'s Discovery+, WarnerMedia's HBO Max, ViacomCBS' Paramount+, NBCUniversal's Peacock and the BBC and ITV's BritBox that will launch within a few months in South Africa.

Already aggressively competing in South Africa are Netflix SA, Amazon Prime Video and MultiChoice's Showmax that are all available through MultiChoice's latest DStv Explora Ultra decoder, as well as Apple TV+.