Disney may just be the most forward-thinking movie studio on the planet. First it acquired Pixar, then Marvel, then Lucasfilm, and now it's turning its back on traditional pay-TV release methods with a new contract it has just signed with Netflix. And it's kind of a big deal, both for the studio and the streaming subscription service.
Starting in 2016, all of Disney's new release live-action and animated films will be available on Netflix as soon as they would have entered the world of pay-TV (aka cable subscription packages). That means that if you subscribe to Netflix, as soon as The Avengers 2 would have gone to cable, you'll be able to stream it on Netflix instead. And since this deal is effective starting in 2016, it'll certainly include Star Wars Episode VII.
Why do you have to wait another three years for the deal to take place? Unfortunately that's because Disney currently has an exclusivity contract with Starz, but as soon as it's up, the studio is jumping ship to Netflix. And that has to be an amazing coup for the streaming pioneers considering Starz ditched Netflix not long ago, the reason being they felt their own cable subscription fees were sufficient profit enough and that Netflix just wasn't necessary. Oops.
Disney isn't the first studio to kill the pay-TV middleman and go directly to Netflix, but it is the first major Hollywood studio to turn its back on cable. The digital landscape is changing the way we watch movies, and the Mouse House knows it. It has seen that people are increasingly cutting the cord; that cable-requiring packages like Starz are no longer the preferred way of watching movies, and it has adjusted its release strategy accordingly. Now imagine what will happen if other studios follow suit.
It's also worth noting that while Disney's new release deal with Netflix can't kick in until the Starz contract ends in 2016, it will be bringing some of its back catalog to the service starting in 2013. We don't know what titles those will be, or how many it'll cover, but it's all the more encouraging to see that Disney has committed to the new distribution method.