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Disney Wades Into Streaming Content Overseas

Walt Disney Co. is jumping into the direct-to-consumer streaming market with a new service starting next month in the United Kingdom. The Burbank media giant will offer DisneyLife at about $15 a month to give subscribers access to films from the Disney and Pixar catalogs as well as episodes of Disney Channel programs. But DisneyLife will go beyond the typical video streaming service by offering hundreds of music albums and books that can be viewed and heard on mobile devices. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said this type of multimedia distribution is the future in many respects. “There is a general sense the world is going in this direction,” Iger said in a prepared statement. “Families are accessing entertainment in completely new ways but their love for Disney and our unique characters and stories remains the same.” Nelson Granados, an associate professor in the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University, thinks Disney’s move is a game-changer in the entertainment industry. Granados, who tracks digital trends, believes that content creators such as Disney will mesh together different types of media. It is not unlike how online publications will include video with their magazinelike stories, he said. DisneyLife represents taking that trend to a larger level. “Instead of selling media separately, how about just merging these types into some really cool combinations?” Granados said. Under Iger’s leadership, Disney has made several moves to leverage the latest technological advances to deliver content, starting in 2005 by making ABC shows available through Apple Inc.’s iTunes store. DisneyLife for the time being will be strictly for the U.K. market, and will be rolled out next for European viewers with programming available in English, French, Spanish, Italian and German. Whether the service comes to the United States is a matter of speculation at this point as Disney has so many other distribution methods, including cable, satellite and other streaming services such as Netflix; Vudu, owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; and cloud-based streaming service Disney Movies Anywhere. “This (DisneyLife) is probably a test to see how it goes and to start leveraging ways of creating new media,” Granados said. Fresh Zombies The work of practical and digital effects company MastersFX can be seen on multiple TV series that will air starting this fall. President Todd Masters said the studio, which has locations in Arleta in the east San Fernando Valley and in Vancouver, Canada, has adjusted to the needs of television production that are becoming less dependent on digital-only effects. “Many projects have begun to ask for practical effects again,” Masters said. “During the past several TV seasons, our industry has back-flipped.” Shows now airing that MastersFX created character and makeup effects for include “Heroes Reborn” on NBC and “iZombie” and “The Flash,” both for the CW network. For the second season of “iZombie,” the company has pushed past the traditional zombie look seen in the horror films made by George Romero. “We’re coming up with fresh dead things out of the brains of our prosthetics team and lead prosthetic artists,” said Lori Sandnes, an effects supervisor. Other upcoming shows MastersFX contributed to include Syfy fantasy series “The Magicians”; sci-fi drama “The Expanse,” also on Syfy; the third season of postapocalyptic drama “The 100” on CW; and alternate history series “The Man in the High Castle,” debuting on Amazon Prime later this month. Virtual Movies How movies will be made and distributed in the coming years was one panel discussion at the Digital Hollywood conference last month in Marina del Rey. Moderated by entertainment technology consultant Marty Shindler, of the Shindler Perspective in Encino, the panel included Phil Groves, senior vice president at Imax Entertainment; Chris Edwards, chief executive of previsualization studio the Third Floor; Kyle Villella, of Fathom Events; and equity analysts Gene Munster and Michael Pachter. The panelists touched on how release windows and globalization will change the way movies are made and distributed. They were in agreement that the future of film will center on what can be done to improve the moviegoing experience and make it unlike anything that can be viewed at home. One of those ways will be with virtual reality, an experience that can place a viewer into the middle of the action in a story. In the next few months, tech companies will release consumer versions of virtual reality headsets that allow for viewer immersion. With enhanced visuals, VR content will appeal to viewers in their late teens and 20s with an insatiable appetite for new technology, Munster said. “If it works for them, it can become mainstream,” he added. Staff reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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