When Disney didn’t announce a UK release date for Disney Plus at its big reveal earlier this year, many were heartbroken and skeptical, while others remained hopelessly optimistic they’d see it around the same time as the US.
Unfortunately, that's not going to happen.
The Disney Twitter account has finally unveiled the release date for the service in the UK and Ireland – March 31, 2020 – over four months after it releases in the US, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. In responses to user questions, it clarified that the existing DisneyLife service will be "rebranded" as Disney Plus, with users able to transition their subscription to the new service.
In answer to questions about price, which is still unknown, Disney UK explained it has "a few different price plans" for the service, and that it'll reveal information on that soon. It's hard to tell if that refers to possible bundles and deals, like Disney has with Verizon in the US, or simply a monthly vs yearly cost, as Disney Plus has been priced in the US. There, it launches as a $6.99 per month all-in-one deal, or you can get a year's subscription for $69.99.
The UK and Ireland aren’t the only territories getting the sharp end of the sceptre – that March release date applies to Germany, France, Italy, Spain as well.
Disney Plus explained
Check out our Disney Plus hub for details on everything from exclusive shows and movies to worldwide release times.
[email protected] will be available in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain (and more to be announced soon) starting on March 31. Please note: Titles may vary by territory. #DisneyPlus pic.twitter.com/2NqM1JVESbNovember 7, 2019
Disney Plus UK: bad news for Disney fans
As you’d expect, people aren’t exactly happy about getting the streaming service - and new, highly anticipated shows like The Mandalorian and films like Lady and the Tramp - four months after everyone else.
That said, although many Disney fans in Europe will feel left out with the decision to launch the service later in their home countries, Disney fans in South America and Asia will be doubly disappointed as they still have yet to get a Disney Plus release date for the service for Brazil, Japan, Argentina and dozens of other Disney-loving countries.
Oh so we get to watch the mandolorian 4 months after it first comes out... awesome work Disney! @GriefBurritoNovember 7, 2019
Still, while many fans are understandably upset at the delay, there are a few fans of the House of Mouse that are just excited to know the European release date of the service.
pic.twitter.com/Io0hUdhd5WNovember 7, 2019
It does feel like the delayed rollout of the service is going to make piracy Disney Plus's worst enemy, even knowing a firm date is on the horizon for many European countries.
The four-month gap makes spoilers pretty much inevitable, too, as those with access to the show start tweeting, reviewing, and engaging with this massive piece of pop culture way ahead of UK viewers. We saw the UK release date for Rick & Morty Season 4 brought forward after fan backlash over the delay, but doing so for a whole platform such as Disney Plus may be too big an endeavour.
Disney Plus UK: expansion takes time, we guess
The best point of comparison for these release dates is in other global streaming services that have had staggered releases outside of the US.
Netflix, for instance, first launched in the US in 1998 as a DVD rental service. It didn't make the move to online streaming until many years later – and it wasn't until 2010 that the platform was able to expand beyond US borders.
The first international territory was the US's close neighbour, Canada – where it launched in 2010 with a lower subscription cost and much more limited library of titles, given the difficulty and expense of obtaining streaming rights abroad. We can expect a similar barrier for Disney Plus, and there will likely be fewer films and shows in non-US territories, especially close to launch.
2011 also saw Netflix expand into South America, as well as the Caribbean. It wasn't until 2012 that Netflix came to Europe, launching in the UK and Ireland, as well as Scandinavia. Now, of course, Netflix streams across huge swathes of the planet, supporting 23 languages in over 190 countries.
Disney Plus will be getting more of a head start, given it's jumping right into a streaming platform, and for five territories at its November launch, including areas of Europe. And it clearly has its sights on European expansion, with the service landing in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain in March 2020.
It's surprising, though, to see the UK delayed the same amount, given English-speaking audiences don't require the same kind of extensive localisation process as most of Europe or Asia, so that should be a simpler proposition.
Disney Plus UK: original predictions
Disney had said it plans to bring its platform to "all major markets within the first two years" of the platform's life (via ScreenRant).
Our original prediction was early- or mid-2020, which was confirmed by the official March 31, 2020 launch date.
Naturally Disney wouldn't actively want to miss out on UK revenue, and these issues are more complicated than flipping a switch for different regions – but the delay won't be good for English-speaking fans, or those wanting to prevent piracy around one of this year's most anticipated TV series.
- We couldn't wait: our hands-on Disney Plus review