The Disney Vault is making a comeback, but it’s so much worse than you think.
As Disney+ has seen a drop over 4 million subscribers, The Walt Disney Company has recently announced that they will be significantly scaling back their streaming content. Although most of the loss was attributed to cricket fans canceling subscriptions after Disney+ lost streaming rights to the Indian Premier League, the numbers were high enough across other areas to prompt the company to take a hard look at their streaming platform.
In response to the loss in subscribers and drop in revenue, the company will be introducing ad-based tiers to both Disney+ and a renewed Hulu platform as well as a combined streaming service. However, viewers will also start to see the “strategic” removal of various content from the streaming services. It’s unclear exactly what will be affected, but it does seem to mark the return of the Disney Vault.
The Disney Vault was a marketing ploy that The Walt Disney Company leaned heavily into during the ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s. As home video devices rose in popularity, Disney created The Walt Disney Home Video Collection. Every few years, the company would rerelease an older film back into theaters to coincide with an upcoming release of the movie to VHS. As technology changed and Disney produced more films, it started a long line of several rereleases of each film. The Classics Collection, Gold Classics Collection, and Masterpiece Collection were just a few rounds of rereleased films from Walt Disney Home Video.
Towards the early 2000s, this marketing tactic was officially called the Disney Vault, and advertisements urged kids to beg their parents to buy the movie before it returned to the Disney Vault for another 10 or so years. As DVD and Blu-ray overtook VHS, the Disney Vault slowly started fading, and eventually, the rise in digital films and streaming platforms ended the Vault altogether…until now.
Although Iger hasn’t mentioned the Vault, or made any indication that the content that will be removed will be brought back or cycled out with other content, the strategy is reminiscent enough to those who grew up with it. However, it brings one major problem with it: most streaming content is only available on the streaming platforms, having never been physically released, meaning once it’s gone, it’s possibly gone forever.
At least with the Walt Disney Home Video Collection and the Disney Vault fans could physically purchase the movies, just like they can purchase seasons of beloved shows that aired on TV up to a certain point. With the rise in streamed content, most people have moved away from owning VHS, DVD, or Blu-ray players, content to binge their favorite shows or watch their favorite movies on whatever platform or app they’re available on. Unfortunately though, this could lead to a major loss in content created specifically for streaming since there’s no good way to access it elsewhere.
Iger stated that streaming is still a relatively new business area for The Walt Disney Company, and as such they’re still learning how to best utilize it. Fans have already seen some of their favorite franchises affected, as the release dates for several Marvel and Star Wars shows have been changed or indefinitely delayed over the last several months. As streaming platforms continue to raise prices, increase ads, and remove or delay content, it’s quite possible viewers may start reverting back to physical copies and returning to the theaters, which is exactly what the company is hoping will happen to better increase other areas of revenue.
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