High touch, high tech and high hurdles; Disney+ clears most obstacles


So much anticipation. So much demand. Can you have too much of a good thing? Just ask Disney.

The media conglomerate’s new Disney+ streaming service, one of the most-anticipated streaming launches in history, ran into some early gremlins that slowed its takeoff, leaving some consumers aggravated and likely causing a run on Alka-Seltzer at Disney’s HQ. 

Still, Disney had about 10 million sign ups by Wednesday morning, just 24 hours after its debut, Disney said. The service launched in the US, Canada and the Netherlands Tuesday. Stories of log-in issues, overwhelmed customer support and issues with some devices marred a day that was supposed to herald Disney’s evolution into a next-gen media company.

Disney spent millions of dollars pre-launch, including about $6 million in the US alone, according to Variety, priming the market for its launch.

Scale of signups overwhelms Disney

The advertising blitz may simply have worked too well, creating a surge of signups and an immediate demand for content that overwhelmed computer servers operated by another company, reported the Wall Street Journal. (Ed. Note: Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s D2C and international division, on Nov. 20 said issues on launch day were due to some bad coding on the backend architecture of the service that was being remedied.)

To be fair, 12 hours after it launched, troubles appeared to be waning.

But the launch hiccups remain a cautionary tale of the media industry’s metamorphosis into the digital age — the transition is not an easy one and requires a huge amount of technical knowledge, the ability to integrate multiple technologies and ongoing support to be successful.

Disney will launch in Australia, New Zealand and Puerto Rico on November 19, with a broader expansion to Western Europe in March, 2020. Analysts expect the service to reach 90 million subscribers within five years.

Disney’s early struggles are not uncommon among media companies hoping to launch a flawless streaming business.

Sling TV had major issues when it launched, highlighted by a meltdown when it began streaming the Men’s NCAA Basketball Championships. YouTube TV’s coverage of the World Cup match between Great Britain and Croatia crashed at halftime. And, HBO? Well, any fan of Game of Thrones can tell you horror stories of their own.

The bottom line

This stuff is tough. Kudos to Disney for pulling off a launch at scale, albeit with just enough issues to make them newsworthy. But, just like the best Disney content, there’s a moral to this story: Media companies like Disney are best at creating awesome content. Tech companies are best at delivering it.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and onLinkedIn