The forthcoming streaming service Disney+ has announced hundreds of films and shows coming to the streaming service when it launches later this year. While it will only launch with a handful of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, it will become the central streaming home for the MCU, with future releases and original series heading to the service.
However, it's still not totally clear if two major MCU movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home, will end up on the streaming service. Considering the ever-shifting dynamics between Disney and Sony, which holds the cinematic rights to Spider-Man, their inclusion or absence from the streaming service could be a bellwether for the state of the Disney-Sony relationship going forward.
The Streaming Conundrum
The rights to the cinematic version of Spider-Man have infamously been in flux recently. Sony and Disney have collaborated on the production of the most recent Spider-Man films. starring Tom Holland When the initial Sony/Disney contract ended, the two companies entered into renegotiation. These discussions fell apart, however, with multiple reasons being cited for the breakdown in talks. These disputes even led to the brief expulsion of spider-Man from the MCU. But a deal struck in late September ensured the character will remain in the MCU for at least two more appearances. However, it didn't answer what would end up happening with the streaming rights to the previous two Spider-Man films.
Disney, like Warner Media and NBCUniversal, is in the process of reacquiring the streaming rights to its various productions to be used for their own individual upcoming streaming services. Beforehand, they licensed the rights to their movies to other services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. This gave those services access to popular films in its library, which Disney now wants to reclaim for its own streaming services. While that makes sense in the long-term, breaking off those partnerships has been something of a mixed bag, especially for Disney, in the short term. The studio has already taken a $150 million loss this year when it ended its streaming-rights contract with Netflix in preparation for the Disney+ launch.
The Disney+ Advantage
Although there will be a massive number of properties on Disney+ when it goes live (including the entire Star Wars filmography) the rights to the MCU films are more complicated. Some of them are still set up with other streaming services like Netflix, and the movies will have to come to the service individually, instead of all launching with the service when it goes live. Sony likely has a certain amount of say in the streaming rights of the films it has a financial stake in, which leaves the fate of the Spider-Man films in limbo.
The two films are even currently airing on Starz as part of a crop of superhero films on the network. Considering how Sony was hesitant to even work on another collaboration with Disney, it would be surprising if it would be content with Disney having the exclusive streaming rights to any of its films. It's understandable why it would be tougher for Sony to give up the streaming rights to Disney.
If the Spider-Man films were exclusive to Disney+, it would keep Sony from pushing the film on to other services and earning revenue as a result. For Disney though, having access to the entire MCU would be a big selling point for the streaming service, and might be worth almost any price.
The Benefits To A Deal
Being the exclusive home to franchises like Star Wars or studios like Pixar gives Disney+ a serious advantage over other competing streaming services, especially with families. Gaining that same advantage with Marvel would be another major plus towards convincing audiences to adopt the service. The MCU is also clearly a priority for Disney+, given the number of upcoming original shows like Loki and WandaVision set within the universe. Not having the entire library of MCU films could be a serious detriment to the service.
The rights to the Spider-Man films would help build up the rest of the Marvel content available on the service and help reinforce the consistent MCU mantra that everything is connected. If it isn't a part of their current deal with Sony over Spider-Man, then Disney needs to try and find a way to ensure that the films can appear on their streaming service. That could even be a positive way for Sony and Disney to find another positive step towards a more permanent partnership. It could even give Sony a bargaining chip that could even help bring this massively popular version of Spider-Man to their Spider-Verse films with Marvel's support.
Disney+ will be available Nov. 12 in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands and on Nov. 19 in Australia and New Zealand, with content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.