Disney Plus launches in UK and Europe amid coronavirus lockdowns

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Disney launched its streaming service Disney+ in the U.K. and Europe on Tuesday, at the height of a global coronavirus pandemic that has forced citizens across the region to remain indoors.

The app is now available for users in most European countries, however Disney has said it won’t launch in France until Apr. 7 due to a request from the government to delay its rollout for two weeks.

Like a number of video streaming platforms, Disney has decided to reduce picture quality in the continent due to a sharp increase in internet traffic. It comes as authorities enforce lockdowns to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease, with more people working remotely and children being sent home from schools.

“In light of concerns regarding the current ability of certain broadband infrastructure to handle the anticipated consumer demand for Disney+, the service will now feature a lower overall bandwidth utilisation by at least 25%,” the company said in a statement.

Tech research firm Omdia said it estimates Disney to gain over five million paid subscriptions in Western Europe by the end of the year, a sizable level of growth which could pull in over $160 million in direct-to-consumer revenues for the entertainment giant.

“Disney+ arrives in Europe just in time to entertain all those users locked at home due to the pandemic and this is likely to have a positive impact on the adoption of Disney+ in Europe,” Maria Rua Aguete, technology fellow at Omdia, told CNBC by email.

“However, there will be challenges too,” Aguete added. “The COVID-19 pandemic will most likely affect the production of Disney+ originals, one of the key selling points of the proposition. This could impact its catalogue in future, or the service may choose to withdraw some of its content for the time being, a strategy that has been adopted by some market players.”

Disney finds itself up against heavy competition from a range of warring streaming providers. A flood of new players have emerged in the U.S., from Apple to AT&T, while in Britain local broadcasters BBC and ITV teamed up to create a new video subscription platform called BritBox.

In Disney’s case, the company touts its war chest of original content, with popular media franchises like Marvel and Star Wars at its disposal.

As for pricing, Disney+ will cost £5.99 in the U.K. and 6.99 euros elsewhere in Europe for a monthly subscription, while annual membership costs £59.99 and 69.99 euros outside the U.K. The company is also offering users a seven-day free trial.

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