On November 12, Disney+ launched in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. Audiences stayed up late to be the first to access this new streaming platform and watch Jon Favreau’s new Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.
Social media lit up as Disney+’s users raved about the new show and its jaw-dropping first episode. The rest of the world, though, is expected to hang tight until the House of Mouse decides to graciously take our money and launch in our region.
As expected, The Mandalorian soared up the charts to become one of the most pirated shows of the year. Despite Disney’s best efforts to curb stomp the seeds, the torrents have avoided the mousetraps and unleashed the show to the globe.
It’s unsurprising, really. Until the day when giant corporates realise the audience doesn’t give two s***s about international territories, licensing, blah, blah, piracy will continue to prevail. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s Jurassic Park character, Dr Ian Malcolm: “Life, uh, finds a way.”
Much like the cause of every problem in a corporate structure, bureaucracy is the enemy that prevents evolution. The people at the top set up meetings to discuss other meetings and believe globalisation is a myth like climate change. It’s 2019. The Star Wars fan in Ghana is just as passionate as the one in the U.S. Fans will find a way to watch content, so it’s up to studios and networks to provide a portal that encourages them to pay for it.
Even Netflix and Hulu were smarter than Disney+ with their in-demand content back in the day. The platforms launched in their respective territories and took a cautious worldwide approach. Rather than go gung-ho, they licensed their shows to networks and providers in other regions. That’s why you’d see the likes of Orange is the New Black and House of Cards on DStv, and The Runaways on Showmax.
The challenge is when the platform finally launches in the territory, because who owns the content rights? This is where good lawyers and contracts are necessary from the get-go. It’s possible to sign deals for a specific timeframe or a show’s season, so it isn’t a permanent situation where another network holds the rights of a show forever.
Naturally, Disney wants nothing more than to hold the rights to all of its content for long-term global domination, but it’s also losing out on money at the moment. The company has stated that it has no plans to bring Disney+ to South Africa or the rest of Africa for the next two years, so why hasn’t it licensed shows like The Mandalorian to Netflix, Showmax or DStv?
Disney sure loves those box office receipts from the rest of the world when it releases Star Wars and Marvel movies in theatres, but it’s showing a middle finger to us right now. Well, fans are having the last laugh as they’re watching the shows anyway (and without paying). The thing is, will they want to pay for Disney+ when it inevitably launches in our region?