What Does STAR Mean for Disney’s Shows in the UK?

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With Disney+ STAR set to launch worldwide (apart from the US, sob) in just a few days, there have been questions as to what the new adult-oriented platform within Disney+ means for Disney’s shows.  In case you don’t know, Disney makes and produces shows and movies under a whole wealth of different studios: ABC Signature, FX, Searchlight, 20th Century & 20th Century Television, to name a few.  Of course, its mainstay studios (Walt Disney Pictures, PIXAR, etc.) still produce mass-market, generally family-friendly content.

In this article, however, I want to really dig down into the shows that Disney produces that are left in a sort of blank box for the time being with the introduction of STAR on Disney+.  The shows I’ll be looking at are:

  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • American Horror Story
  • The Orville
  • Family Guy

 

Grey’s Anatomy

The show has a storied past with the UK.  With it being a mainstay on Sky for a good few years, it garnered an audience that only grew and grew once it reached streaming platforms.  With Disney+ STAR, the show’s first 15 seasons will be available.  You may be aware that the show itself is currently on Season 17 in the US, and Season 16 aired weekly on linear channel Sky Witness last year.  Given that ABC Studios (Grey’s producer) and Sky failed to renew their boxset licence back in 2019, it’s likely Season 16 will be available on Disney+ STAR in the very near future.  Still, then, that leaves the question as to Season 17, which as of 19 Feb 2021, has not aired in the UK.

Do I think this means that Grey’s will become a STAR original?  Eventually, but not just yet.  I think what will wind up happening is, from Season 18, the show will move to STAR as an original and have next day airings of episodes.  It is mighty convenient, after all, that Grey’s airs on a Thursday night in the US.

 

American Horror Story

This is the one I’m most interested in because I quite like the show as a whole.  With the announcement that the FX show’s spin-off, American Horror Stories, will be airing on both Hulu and Disney+ STAR as originals, it’s a reasonable presumption that the main show would be available for streaming on Disney+ STAR.  Alas, that is not the case.  In the UK, Netflix holds the exclusive streaming rights, which vest when the show is one year old from its network debut.  In the UK, that network is Disney-owned Fox TV.

Now, Disney’s strategy with Hulu is a platform called “FX on Hulu”, i.e., a home for all of the FX shows, new and old.  I could absolutely see Disney trying something similar with STAR but the reason I don’t see it happening, at least within the first year, is because of the BBC.  The BBC signed an exclusive output and co-production deal in 2018 which, because of the pandemic, has caused a lot of the contracted shows to be delayed.  Given this, it’s unlikely that Disney, if they did introduce the FX on STAR platform, would even have a lot to put there.

That said, I do think that if Disney turns American Horror Story into a STAR original, they could slowly start to tell Netflix that they don’t want its show on the platform any longer.

 

The Orville

This is 100% going to become a STAR original.

In the US, the show moved from the Fox channel to become a Hulu original.  There is absolutely no reason why the show would continue to air on linear television when Disney now has a (somewhat) global platform upon which to air its own-produced Hulu shows.  I would even guess that’s why the older seasons aren’t yet on STAR in the UK.

 

Family Guy

It seems today, like all you see, is Family Guy shifting around your TV.  The show moved from BBC2, to BBC3, to ITV2, to BBC2, back to ITV2, all the while still airing on the UK’s Fox channel because… syndication?  The show has first-run rights on ITV2, but I could imagine Disney working out a deal with ITV where they’re basically like “Give us weekly episode streaming rights or we’ll just pull the plug”.

While I don’t think the show will become a STAR original, I think the fact that we’re getting 18 out of 19 total seasons of the show (Season 19 is still airing) at launch speaks volumes about how invested Disney is in keeping Family Guy on the STAR platform.

 

What to Expect?

Over the next few months, we’re going to see a lot more shows and movies added to STAR.  Disney has already announced a huge line-up for March and I expect April to be even bigger seeing as the streamer is still about 600 titles short of its “1000 by Year 1” promise.  I definitely think we’re going to see a shift in how Disney distributes its programming in the UK and further afield, with its linear channels in Brazil being rebranded to STAR as one indication of the direction in which the company seems to be headed.

I would even go as far as to suggest this: by 2023, Disney will close all of its linear channels in the UK.  Granted, they only have Fox, FX and the Nat Geo ones, but the statement still impacts a lot of content.  I think they’ll make the shift to exclusively airing shows on their streaming service.

 

What do you think?  Let me know in the comments or by following me on Twitter (@StreamingBuffer).  If you like these types of deep-dives into the state of the world as a result of streaming, check out my website: The Streaming Buffer, where we talk about news and reviews for all your favourite streaming services.

Thanks to Disney Plus Informer for the opportunity!

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