Disney+ may add cable-style streaming channels focused on Marvel and Star Wars

Reports suggest Disney sees linear channels as a way to increase the time subscribers spend in the app.

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Disney is reportedly planning to add linear cable-style streaming channels to Disney+. According to The Information, the company wants subscribers to spend more time in the app and, by offering more viewing options, it may entice users to stick around. In addition, by running ads on these channels, Disney could boost its bottom line.

There are already a bunch of free, ad-supported streaming (FAST) services such as Roku, Pluto TV and Tubi. Last year, Warner Bros. Discovery brought FAST channels featuring its shows and movies to Roku and Tubi. Disney itself has some FAST channels inside the ABC.com app, including ones dedicated to General Hospital and 20/20. But none of those are inside a subscription service.

The report suggests that Disney may offer channels based on tentpole franchises such as Star Wars and Marvel, along with others showing animated movies from Pixar. Many folks have FAST channels on as background noise while cleaning and so on, and given the high brand affinity for Disney, this makes sense for the company to explore.

Beyond Marvel and Star Wars, Disney has a deep well of shows and movies to pull from for its linear streaming channels. There's absolutely a market for a channel that shows The Simpsons 24/7. There's probably an audience out there that would love to have Boy Meets World or Scrubs on in the background as they go about their day, and of course Disney has a large library of animated kids shows in its locker. A DuckTales channel seems like a no-brainer.

Disney is trying to make Disney+ a one-stop shop for consumers. It recently folded in Hulu and it reportedly plans to do something similar with ESPN when the sports network's standalone streaming service arrives next year. Adding linear streaming channels to the mix could help Disney pull eyeballs away from the likes of Roku and Pluto TV as well.

That said, Disney+ wouldn't be the first subscription streaming service to go down this path. Paramount+ added a Live Channels feature in 2021 to highlight some of the platform's most popular movies and shows. Along with genre-based channels (such as offerings for kids and reality competition fans), others are based on hit franchises such as Paw Patrol, Star Trek and RuPaul's Drag Race.

Another major streaming platform has explored different strategies too. At one point Netflix is said to have considered offering the option to subscribe to and watch other streaming services from within its app, much like Amazon does with Prime Video Channels. The Information notes that while Netflix hasn't moved forward with that plan, the company hasn't ruled it out as it too tries to get users to spend more time in its app.

Update 4/16 11:35AM ET: Added context about the Paramount+ Live Channels.

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