Disney signs mobile content deal with O2 in the UK

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Mar 16, 2020

via Flickr © Retrogasm (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Retrogasm (CC BY 2.0)

  • Disney+ to launch on March 25th, just in time for school closures?
  • O2 gets to offer free content for 6 months to new customers. 
  • Disney limbers up to compete with the likes of  Netflix and Amazon Prime

When Disney selected March 25th as the launch date for Disney+ in the UK, it couldn’t have foreseen that late March might be the time when the UK government would likely close schools to stem the coronavirus... could it?

Hopefully not. Disney’s good at marketing, but not that good. 

In the event O2 has been appointed Disney+ exclusive mobile network distributor in the UK, joining its DSP stablemate Telefonica in Spain and Deutsche Telekom in Germany along with  Canal+ in France. Also in the UK Disney has signed Sky. Presumably Disney will keep making European announcements along the same lines.

For O2, winning the Disney gig can no doubt be counted as a major coup. It arms the mobile operator with valuable content to attract and keep customers in the highly contested four-operator UK market, just as it breaks into a gallop to retain and hopefully add customers through what will likely be a bit of a 5G shuffle. 

Disney, of course, goes far wider than Donald (Duck!), Mickey and friends. The Disney stable includes Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, more than 600 episodes of The Simpsons and more besides.

The distribution agreement will see O2 sugar its mobile service with a vast range of (ultimately paid for) content with the draw of an introductory ‘six month for free offer’ of Disney+  for new O2 postpaid customers. Existing O2 customers will be entitled to a £2 a month discount if they subscribe to Disney+ for £5.99 a month. 

Disney calls itself the world’s leading entertainment company and boasts over 500 films, more than 350 series and will offer 26 exclusive Disney+ Originals at launch. Enough content for even the most bingey virus-stranded schoolchild.

But while the arrangements are great for Disney as it works to crack the European market in emulation of rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime, the deals don’t necessarily go down terribly well with rival mobile operators. 

As Nick Wood reported on March 11, Vodafone Spain has gone running to the competition regulator there to complain that Telefonica’s Movistar deal with Disney violates undertakings Telefonica made over such arrangements when it acquired Canal+. The addition of Disney+ to an already well-stocked content library is a dominant content position too far, Vodafone might argue.  

In the UK, BT with EE is now the dominant content-wielding mobile DSP so Vodafone UK seems unlikely to start making noises about O2’s Disney deal.

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