Netflix has acquired the exclusive U.S. rights to movies from Walt Disney Studios films, beginning in 2016, in a three-year deal that catapults the Internet video-on-demand service into direct competition with pay-TV giants such as HBO and Showtime.
The news is a blow to the pay channel Starz, which previously had the rights to Disney movies, including its Pixar animated films and Marvel superhero pictures.
Disney has also agreed to immediately give Netflix non-exclusive streaming rights to more of its older library titles, including “Dumbo,” “Pocahontas” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
Starz’s sole remaining movie provider is now Sony Pictures. That agreement ends in 2016.
Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings and chief content officer Ted Sarandos have long said they wanted to get pay-TV rights to films from one of Hollywood’s six major studios to boost their company’s online entertainment service. Currently, it has recent movies only from independent studios such as Relativity Media and FilmDistrict, as well as pictures more than a decade old from every studio, and a wide variety of television reruns.
In a statement, Sarandos called the deal a “a bold leap forward for Internet television and we are incredibly pleased and proud this iconic family brand is teaming with Netflix to make it happen.”
Disney movies will become available to stream from Netflix seven to nine months after they are first shown in theaters.