The Walt Disney Company is shutting down all three lineal cable channels with the Disney name in the U.K., following the successful launch of Disney+ there in March. All content from Disney Channel, DisneyXD and Disney Junior will now exclusively be available on the streaming platform. One analyst called this a "landmark" decision in the "streaming revolution," as it is another sign Disney would rather spend money on streaming than traditional television.
The three channels will go off the air on Oct. 1, Disney said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "The direct-to-consumer service, which garnered more than 54.5 million subscribers worldwide in its first seven months, will now premiere all the latest films, series and specials from the three Disney Channels, along with offering a rich and expansive back catalog of Disney Channel titles in the U.K., including Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Descendants 3 and Phineas and Ferb," the company said. The company is still "committed" to the "kids channels business" while continue to reach new distribution deals for Disney channels where Disney+ is available.
The decision to drop the channels came after Disney could not reach a new distribution agreement with Sky, which is owned by Comcast and Virgin Media. Disney's National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild and Fox will still be broadcast in the U.K, notes The Verge. However, Disney reached a nonexclusive U.K. distribution deal for Disney+ with Sky. It first launched on the pay-TV service Sky Q, then Sky's streaming service Now TV.
Disney also removed Disney Channel, DisneyXD and Disney Junior from Sky in New Zealand late last year, following the launch of Disney+ there. However, it does not look like there are any plans to remove the three channels in the U.S. During an earnings call last year, Disney executive chairman Bob Iger called Disney+ "a bet on the future of this business."
PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore told THR the move in the U.K. was a significant moment for Disney because it shows that the "streaming revolution" can not be ignored. "Companies can no longer continue to support a slew of channels and cannibalize revenue streams," he said. "The future is all about streaming and this latest move sets a benchmark for others to follow suit."
The move also comes as Disney is poised to release a new major project on Disney+. The studio filmed a production of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, complete with the original Broadway cast. The film will be released on Friday, July 3, and is rated PG-13.