Within the next several months we will see the debut of new streaming OTT services from both Apple and Disney. Both have been announcing new series and movies in the last year and are poised to significantly disrupt the market of existing players. Apple has been more focused on TV shows and hasn’t, to my knowledge, branched into feature films, but Disney has a mix of shows and movies planned.
Among the original movies on the schedule are:
- Noelle, starring Anna Kendrick. The movie was originally slated for theatrical release but was pulled from the calendar in favor of saving it for the eventual streaming service.
- Lady and the Tramp, a live-action remake of the animated classic that has put together an impressive cast so far including Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux, Kiersey Clemons and others.
- The Paper Magician, based on Charlie N. Holmberg’s book of the same name.
- Togo, about a sled dog in the 1952 run to Nome.
- The Sword in the Stone, another live-action remake of an animated film.
- Three Men and a Baby, a remake of the Ted Danson/Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg family comedy.
- Stargirl, based on the novel by Jerry Spinelli about a ukulele-playing girl who goes to public school for the first time after being homeschooled for years. Grace Vanderwaal has been cast to star and the movie should not be mistaken for the DC Universe streaming series “Stargirl” based on the Geoff Johns-created super hero.
- Don Quixote, a new version of the story directed by Billy Ray in what is probably an unintentional throwing of shade at Terry Gilliam, who’s still struggling with the adaptation he’s been trying to make for over 15 years.
That’s an impressive slate and, when added to whatever Disney and Fox catalog titles, Star Wars TV shows and more that are also planned, makes a powerful case to give the service a try.
Despite the difference in strategies, the questions raised here by Daniel D’Addario at Variety about Apple’s plans are applicable to Disney’s upcoming service as well. Still, aside from what either service will eventually be named, one big one remains in my head:
How are these movies going to be marketed to the public?
The answer, I’m wagering at the moment, lies in a mix of how Netflix’s marketing for its original films has evolved over the years and some ways Apple has experimented with adding value to its on-demand video store in the past.
First, as I pointed out recently, Netflix has become much more ambitious with its movie marketing tactics recently. Whereas it used to regularly only release a single trailer – sometimes less than a week before the movie was available – and a half-hearted poster, it’s embraced featurettes, cute videos with the casts of high-profile movies and more to build and sustain the conversation. These are the same kinds of videos that have been produced by online media brands like Vice, Vox and others in the past and are meant to appeal to the same young, hip audience.
Second, iTunes regularly adds what it calls “Extras” to some of the high-profile titles available through its storefront. These extras are similar to what’s traditionally been produced as bonus features on DVD and Blu-ray but are unique to the service, encouraging audiences to pay a little more for the supplemental material they’ve enjoyed in the past. Sometimes you can access bonus features early if you order the movie for home viewing months in advance, often while it’s still in theaters.
Apple as a whole is not known for its content marketing efforts. The company has historically run social media accounts that were all but barren, there only so it could use the accounts to run “dark” ads that were inserted into people’s feeds.
It will find, though, that when the goal is to get people’s attention and compete against a slew of other providers on the basis of exclusivity and not convenience, it’s going to have to up its game. That will likely mean not only on-platform promotions such as placing banners in the featured carousel of the iTunes store (similar to what Netflix does with the top of its logged-in homepage) but also going off-platform to YouTube and social networks to meet audiences where they are, hoping to pull them in to download an original film or series. Featurettes, interviews and other material could be a big part of the message put out there, offering something unique to anyone opting to jump in.
Disney won’t have quite such a steep learning curve, of course. It already wholly embraces off-site advertising and marketing for its existing film and television slate. Still, the economics will be somewhat different because it will be working against gravity to draw in new customers and continue communicating the core value propositions. On-platform promotion will be a component of the mix, to be sure, but one that will be small at the outset until a critical mass of users are accumulated.
All of this is speculation since, again, we don’t even have official launch dates or brand names for either offering. But there are precedents that can be looked to as we wonder how big a splash both will make upon arrival.