- Disney is investing heavily in “Star Wars” content for its upcoming streaming service, Disney Plus, showing it’s not concerned with “Star Wars” fatigue.
- “The Mandalorian,” the first live-action “Star Wars” TV series for Disney Plus, costs $15 million an episode, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, called Disney Plus a “24/7 marketing machine” for Disney.
- But experts agree that Disney’s “Star Wars” strategy will only work if the quality matches the quantity.
- “Any franchise can suffer from fatigue, particularly ones that have been around for decades,” Daniel Loria, the Boxoffice Pro editorial director, told Business Insider. “To last into the future, they need to connect with audiences as they reinvent themselves.”
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After “Solo: A Star Wars Story” disappointed at the box office last year, Disney CEO Bob Iger promised a “slow down” on “Star Wars” movies.
But Disney is obviously still confident in the “Star Wars” franchise after the “Solo” mishap. Not only is a new trilogy being developed by “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — the first movie of which comes to theaters in 2022 — but it’s throwing a ton of weight behind the franchise on its upcoming streaming service, Disney Plus.
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“I don’t think Disney is concerned [about ‘Star Wars’ fatigue] at all,” Paul Dergarabedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider. “If Disney thought there was going to be ‘Star Wars’ fatigue, they wouldn’t be putting out all of this content.”
“The Mandalorian” — the first-ever “Star Wars” live-action TV series — costs $15 million an episode, The Wall Street Journal reported in July. That’s on par with what the final season of “Game of Thrones” cost. The series will be available to stream when Disney Plus launches on November 12.
And there is more Disney Plus “Star Wars” content in the works:
- Actor Ewan McGregor will reprise his “Star Wars’ prequel trilogy role of Obi-Wan Kenobi for a Disney Plus TV series, Disney announced at the D23 Expo over the weekend.
- “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” will return exclusively to Disney Plus for a new season in February.
- And a “Rogue One” spin-off starring Diego Luna as Cassian Andor is in the works for the platform.
“The streaming battle is first and foremost about content, and content that you ultimately will not be able to get in other places,” Stephen Beck, the founder and managing partner of consulting firm cg42, told Business Insider. “The consumer will ultimately make some choices based on content they want and the exclusivity of the content. When you think about the four main engines of Disney Plus — Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and ‘Star Wars’ — those are four mega properties to have.”
Unlike the looming competition in the streaming war — Apple (Apple TV Plus), WarnerMedia (HBO Max), and NBCUniversal — Disney’s theatrical and streaming releases have the potential to complement one another. And Disney Plus provides an opportunity to capitalize on big “Star Wars” productions without the added risks that go along with releasing a movie to theaters every year.
That’s why Dergarabedian called Disney Plus a “24/7 marketing machine for Disney.”
“They’re going to bounce audiences back and forth to keep people enthusiastic about ‘Star Wars,'” he said. “And that could also attract non-‘Star Wars’ fans.”
That will only work if the quality matches the quantity.
How ‘Star Wars’ can thrive
“There is always the possibility that the Disney Plus’ ‘Star Wars’ content acts as a long-lead marketing push for upcoming movies,” Daniel Loria, the editorial director of Boxoffice Pro, told Business Insider. “But what if those shows failed to attract an audience?”
“Solo” showed that any “Star Wars” project isn’t a guaranteed hit. The movie didn’t cross $400 million worldwide and cost over $200 million to make, before marketing costs. Every other “Star Wars” movie since 2015’s “The Force Awakens” has grossed over $1 billion.
A lot of factors could have contributed to “Solo’s” failure: a poor release date just five months after “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” hit theaters, behind-the-scenes drama in which Ron Howard reshot much of the movie late into production, and sub-par reviews compared to other recent “Star Wars” movies.
“Any franchise can suffer from fatigue, particularly ones that have been around for decades,” Loria continued. “To last into the future, they need to connect with audiences as they reinvent themselves. That’s why we’ve seen so many versions of James Bond, of the ‘Halloween’ movies over the years. Not every movie in those franchises has worked, but they’ve been able to reinvent themselves and sustain audience interest across generations.”
READ MORE: 25 confirmed movies and TV shows being made for Disney Plus, the company’s Netflix competitor
Fortunately, “Star Wars” offers plenty of different avenues for reinvention.
The announced Disney Plus content shows that Disney is ready to tap into stories that have yet to be told, and even Benioff and Weiss’ trilogy will not be part of the main Skywalker saga that concludes with December’s “The Rise of Skywalker.” As Disney Plus prepares for launch, it might be the perfect time to move on.
“As a person born in the 1970s who has been on this journey [with ‘Star Wars’] since then and my kids have grown up in it, the thing I find interesting about the franchise is that there’s a massive amount of stories to be told,” Beck said. “I think that’s where the notion of ‘Star Wars’ fatigue comes from. It’s not that there’s not new ways of diving into this universe and making content that will connect. It’s not fatigue with the franchise in absolute.”
He added, “At the end of the day, Disney has the potential to let geeks geek out, and the casual consumer to dip in and play along when they want to. But it comes down to good storytelling, like it always does. They’ll have more channels to do that than ever before. If they do, then everyone wins.”
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