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Star on Disney+: 6-Month Review

Today marks 6 months since Star, Disney’s general entertainment brand, launched in regions outside of the US and Latin America as part of Disney+.  From its wide collection of originals, to its strong library, I’m going to review its ups and downs, and also state what I think the next 6 months will hold for the service.

 

The Good

To say that Star has completely changed how I use Disney+ is an understatement.  It went from an app I used every once in a while to an app I now use every single day.  Episodes of Recess will only get you so far, and I’ve found now I’m using Disney+ as background noise when I’m writing articles, or as a place I recommend people watch new series such as Only Murders in the Building (coming to the platform on 31 August).  From Grey’s Anatomy to Criminal Minds, this is a service that now more directly competes with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video because it truly is one for the whole family.  Case in point, I’m watching an episode from Season 9 of Family Guy as I’m writing this right now!

 

Those shows are all well and good, but where the service sometimes shines is in its originals.  To talk about them, it’s important to make a couple of seemingly trivial (but, ultimately, important) distinctions.  When a service has an “original” series or film, it means that it debuts on that service exclusively in the region that you’re viewing it in.  When a service has an “exclusive” series, it means that prior seasons of that show were available somewhere else but newer seasons and episodes are only available on that service.  Some services, like Amazon Prime Video, will only call something an “original” if Amazon controls distribution for that show worldwide.  Others, like Netflix, will use the term “original” to mean both a “true original” and an “exclusive” in that region.

 

With Star, Disney+ has both originals and exclusives.  Only Murders in the Building, for example, is a Star Original because it will debut only on Star (in the Star regions).  However, in the UK, Star also has new episodes of The Walking Dead because the Fox channel closed up in June 2021.  The Walking Dead is therefore a Star Exclusive.  The reason for this distinction is important in establishing how effective the distribution strategy is because, now, Disney has a means of consolidating how its US shows reach our shores.  The implementation of it is something I’ll discuss later on but, focusing on the good, we’re able to see shows like Love, VictorSolar OppositesBig Sky and MODOK in one place, as Star Originals.

 

The Bad

Like all things, Star isn’t perfect.  There are a few issues that I have; some are minor and easily fixable, while others are much more complex and require a wait

 

Age Ratings

With the introduction of Star, Disney+ now holds content ranging from 0+ to 18+.  Unfortunately, some of that content is mis-categorised.  That wouldn’t ordinarily be an issue but, with Disney’s so-called robust parental controls, account holders can only block access to content that is above a certain age restriction rather than per-title like Netflix allows.  When Star first launched, Family Guy was marked as a 12+ which was the same rating as The Simpsons, meaning that a parent would have to restrict their child’s profile to below 9+ if they wanted them to avoid seeing Family Guy.  This meant that the child would also be unable to watch The Simpsons and many other suitable media.  It’s been largely fixed now but there are still some weird choices.

 

Cancelled Originals

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the new content we’re getting.  The issue I have, however, is that Disney set a target of 35 originals within Year 1 and they’re eating away at that by distributing shows that were cancelled in the US and slapping the “Star Original” intro on them.  Shows like NEXTRebelMixed-ish and Helstrom were all cancelled in the US and they’re making their debuts in the UK as Star Originals just to meet that target.  Hopefully, we’ve seen the back end of that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few more of those up their sleeves.

 

Distribution of Originals

Another issue I have with the Star brand is the speed (or, rather, lack thereof) at which shows are distributed.  I can understand that Disney is committed to having their flagship service, Disney+, air episodes weekly.  That, however, is a tough pill to swallow when a show like MODOK is available in full on Hulu from Day 1 while it airs weekly from Day 1 outside the US.  That doesn’t seem completely fair.  This is especially weird for shows like The Great North which, by the time it debuts as a weekly Star Original from Season 1, will have premiered its second season in the US.

 

Release Cadences

Speed of distribution is tangentially related to another fault of the service: release cadences.  This is what I was alluding to when I said some issues I had were a bit more complex and probably required a longer wait to see resolved.  When a show releases in the US through any of Disney’s distribution channels (Disney Channel, ABC, Hulu, Fox or FX), it should be able to be on Star as soon as it airs.  I understand that contracts exist and we’re probably never going to know how long these agreements are in place for, so it’s going to be a long wait to see results.  What I can say confidently is this: Disney will no longer distribute its shows to linear networks outside the US once these agreements are up.  Things like Grey’s Anatomy and Family Guy will 100% become Star Exclusives in the (hopefully) near future.

 

The Future

As to what the future holds for Disney’s “service-within-a-service”, I could see them really leaning into that aspect of it and having studio tiles within the Star brand.  They’re not shying away from the FX branding on series like American Horror Stories and Y: The Last Man, nor are they hiding the fact that upcoming film Vacation Friends is a 20th Century flick.  They’re specifically treating this as a service that exists within Disney+, hence why their socials always say “coming to Star on Disney+”, something they don’t mirror with Marvel series such as WandaVision.

 

I also think the future of Star is going to be more focused on consolidating Disney’s streaming offering.  They’ve stated that they plan on launching Disney+ with Star in every other region that they haven’t yet launched, excluding the Hotstar markets.  The goal of Disney+ is to eventually have a service that is ubiquitous around the globe so, even though it may take 5+ years to do so, they’re definitely on the right track.

 

What do you think?  Did Star on Disney+ completely change your view of the service?  What improvements would you suggest to make Star even better?

 

Star on Disney+ is available in all regions that Disney+ is available apart from the USA, Latin America and Japan.  Star on Disney+ will launch in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea later in 2021, with Eastern & Central Europe, South Africa and Israel confirmed for Summer 2022.

1 thought on “Star on Disney+: 6-Month Review”

  1. Star is great but one thing is annoying is where are the classic tv series and movies of 40s 50s 60s from 20th century this is lacking on the service, it’s nice to have new stuff but classic stuff with 20th century massive library of content is disappointing of them not releasing content of this era which one reason why I joined Disney plus for this content, so I hope they start releasing there 40s 50s 60s content soon .

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