Might Disney Add Music To Its New Streaming Service?

Dawn Chmielewski | August 12, 2017

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger rocked the entertainment world - and Netflix’s stock - this week when he announced plans to launch direct-to-consumer streaming services.

Iger described two distinct offerings, an ESPN-branded service for sports fans, and an entertainment service with movies and television shows drawn from Disney’s many brands, including Disney and Pixar.

Might music also be added to the mix?

It’s not in the works at this point, say insiders. But such a move wouldn't be unprecedented, either.

Consider DisneyLife, a direct-to-consumer streaming app in the United Kingdom and France that offers classic and newer movies, television episodes from Disney Channel and Disney Junior, books -- and music.

Subscribers who pay a monthly fee of $6.50 get access songs from such popular Disney animated films as Frozen, and The Little Mermaid, as well as to music from recording artists signed to the Disney’s Hollywood Records label, including Zendaya and Alex Maxwell.

“I don't think it’s front of mind on anybody’s radar screen in a big way right now (in the U.S.), but it’s logical,” said Peter Csathy, chairman of the media and tech advisory firm CREATV Media. “If I want to hear kid-safe music, why wouldn't I stream it?”

Veteran music executive Ted Cohen, who now runs TAG Strategic, said Disney has plenty of in-house digital music expertise.

Disney Music Group President Ken Bunt established early music partnerships with YouTube, Facebook, iTunes and VEVO. Michael Abrams, a senior vice president in Disney’s strategic business initiatives, ran digital ventures at Live Nation Entertainment. And Courtney Holt, now an executive vice president of media strategy for Disney, was president of MySpace Music and, before that, ran digital strategy for MTV.

“You’ve got people with great music pedigrees if Disney wanted to start doing interesting things,” said Cohen.

It seems highly unlikely that, should Disney bring music to its U.S. entertainment app, that it would do so exclusively. That would hardly benefit artists like Demi Lovato, who got their start at Disney Channel but have established independent identities as recording artists.

“You want the content to be where the audience is,” said one source. “I couldn't imagine pulling content from elsewhere.”

There have been past efforts for family-focused music streaming services. Rhapsody launched subscription service aimed expressly for children in 2015, dubbed Rhapsody Kids. The Internet radio service Pandora also has a station programmed for for rugrats, called Radio for Kids. But none launched by companies with Disney’s clout in the children’s sphere.

Whether or not it includes tunes, Disney’s entry into streaming could help established music streaming services by getting mainstream consumers comfortable with the subscription model, sources say.

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About the author: Dawn Chmielewski Contributor