Disney Dances Ever More Closely with Disney+ and the Streaming Model!

Disney announced that Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) is jumping exclusively to Disney+.

It’s a move with potential implications for the documentary niche.

DWTS’s 16 years (30 seasons) of primetime on Disney’s ABC broadcast network are over.

CEO Bob Chapek‘s announcement accelerates the strategic shift in Disney’s investment in original programming towards Disney+ and away from its legacy networks.

The decision signals heightened challenges to Disney’s linear channels, like ABC and Nat Geo.

These headwinds will be felt across the entire broadcast and cable / satellite network model:

  • Franchise programs like DWTS will no longer attract viewers to the legacy channels.
  • Cable subscribers will experience less ‘bang for the buck.’
  • And cord-cutting will accelerate, with lead U.S. networks shedding subs from the current 70 million levels to below 50 million at which their business models are questionable.

All of these trends will compress spending on programs by the legacy channels, including Nat Geo.

More Grown Up Docs?

The DWTS move also signals that Disney+ is solidifying its appeal to the more mature demo than was targeted by the KIDS / family-friendly content mix associated with the streamer’s launch and rollout.

It’s too early to confidently read into the tea leaves any trends for Nat Geo and Disney+’s documentary pipeline.

Investments in Nat Geo documentary / unscripted commissions are likely to be bolstered.

I could make a guess that there will be greater tolerance in the Disney+ / Nat Geo documentary teams for:

  • True Crime pitches
  • High-priced docs about edgier music artists
  • And for other unscripted features, specials and series about tougher topics.

Hulu Sidelined

  • Hulu has long been the streaming home for off-broadcast mainstays like DWTS, carried on Hulu next day in past seasons.
  • Disney (33%) shares ownership of Hulu with Comcast (66%).
  • The DWTS announcement signals even more brightly that Disney and its investors are all in on wholly-owned Disney+ versus part-owned Hulu, and Disney’s legacy channels.

Disney Dreams or Nightmares?

  • Disney is being steadily dragged into America’s fierce culture wars.
  • The company’s policies on gender and minority inclusion are rising from flea bites on Disney’s All American corporate reputation to potential wounds to its business strategy and operations.
  • Don’t miss this revealing coverage by Brooks Barnes in the New York TImes.
  • We haven’t yet noted any impacts on Disney’s Nat Geo brand and its unscripted strategy, but we’re watching…