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Jan 18, 2019

Disney to show off new streaming service to investors April 11

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: The Disney logo is displayed outside the Disney Store in Times Square, December 14, 2017 in New York City. The Walt Disney Company announced on Thursday morning that it had reached a deal to purchase most of the assets of 21st Century Fox. The deal has a total value of around $66 billion, with Disney assuming $13.7 billion of Fox's net debt. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N) will show off its highly anticipated Disney+ streaming service at an April 11 investor meeting, providing a peek at a platform that will challenge Netflix Inc. (NFLX.O) head on.

The service, which will include original movies and TV shows from Disney’s Marvel, Pixar and other brands, is scheduled to debut later this year. It will be a third, more family-focused streaming service, on top of Disney’s existing ESPN+ and Hulu, which will soon be majority owned by the Burbank, California-based entertainment giant.

Among traditional media companies, Disney is making the biggest bet on streaming and monthly subscriptions. The company will soon complete the US$71 billion purchase of 21st Century Fox Inc.’s entertainment assets, which will bring in more film and TV franchises it can exploit in theaters, on TV and online.

After that deal was announced in late 2017, Disney reorganized its business to create a stand-alone direct-to-consumer division for streaming. In a filing Friday, the company provided details on how that business and all of Disney’s divisions would have looked under the new structure for the past three years.

Disney’s direct-to-consumer division, for example, lost US$738 million on revenue of US$3.4 billion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 29. Those numbers reflect the company’s investment in new content and technology, without the full benefit of subscription revenue from the new streaming service still in development and ESPN+, which was introduced in April.

Disney executives have been preparing investors for what might be a transitional year, due to investments in the new services. Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said in November that costs associated with ESPN+ would reduce profit by US$100 million in the just-ended fiscal first quarter.

On a conference call with investors Thursday, Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said an onslaught of new streaming services from Disney, AT&T Inc. and others doesn’t concern him because U.S. consumers spend a billion hours a day watching video.

“They have great content,” Hastings said of Disney. “We’re excited for their launch, and maybe they grow over a couple years to 50 million hours a day, but that’s out of the billion.”