In the wake of Netflix’s deal with Sony to give the streaming service exclusive post-theatrical window rights to Sony films before they went anywhere else, I mentioned it was exactly what both parties needed.
Now, after Disney’s own Sony deal that’s poised to house much of Sony’s library content on Disney properties, it’s clear that the House of Mouse is getting what it wanted: Control of the home entertainment market.
Bringing the Spider-Man movies to Disney+ has rightfully earned headlines because of how important that property is to both Sony and Disney alike. While Marvel (pre-Disney) sold the film rights to its marquee character for a mere $7 million in 1998, Disney still owns the animated short-format rights as well as comics and merchandising rights. And after Sony’s Andrew Garfield-led The Amazing Spider-Man films flopped, Sony struck a deal with Marvel to hand creative direction over to Kevin Feige, folding the charcter into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The results have benefited everyone. Marvel gets more control over its most popular hero again, and that relevance and success fuels its comics/merch sales. Meanwhile, Spidey’s integration into the MCU ultimately benefits Sony, who takes home the box office haul. Spider-Man: Far From Home (the second MCU Spider-Man movie) is currently the 25th-best grossing film of all time ($1.13 billion) and its predecessor, Spider-Man: Homecoming is 67th ($880.2 million). By comparison, just two of the five live-action Sony Spider-Man films have broken the $800 million mark (2002’s Spider-Man and 2007’s Spider-Man 3, which both starred Tobey McGuire).
With all seven live-action Spider-Man movies to-date heading to Disney+, the service further entrenches itself as the hub for all things Marvel on streaming, and at no additional cost to consumers beyond the subscription price. Netflix will have the advantage of an exclusive window on new Spider-Man titles without up-charging consumers. However, that potentially just fuels further interest in a Disney+ subscription once that window ends and those titles (including the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home) join the rest of the library content on Disney+.
This isn’t even to make the Disney-Sony deal all about Marvel/Spider-Man, either. By acquiring Sony’s library content, Disney (across all TV and streaming platforms) does become the premier home entertainment hub for U.S. audiences, as it owns the rights to many of the top-grossing films of all time. While it’s not exactly analogous to the most popular movies, you could at least argue that people being willing to spend money on something means it IS popular, to an extent.
Looking at the highest-grossing films ever, Disney now controls the streaming rights to about two-thirds of the top titles — and can offer that at no additional charge, unlike its various video-on-demand competitors. On top of Spider-Man, some of Sony’s most popular franchises also include numerous Will Smith-led titles (including Men in Black), Hotel Transylvania, Smurfs, Jumanji, Resident Evil, Terminator, and the Da Vinci Code/Angels & Demons, among numerous others. It appears James Bond streaming rights could reside with Universal — though Sony distributed many of the 007 films before 2015.
In any case, Disney’s goal here is to be a one-stop-shop for home entertainment without the steep fees of the premium video-on-demand space. At the same time, they’re willing to experiment with PVOD (see Mulan and this summer’s Black Widow and Cruella releases), while also continuing to fuel their complete control of the current box office environment. If that sounds like a lot of balls in the air, that’s also just how Disney does things. Ultimately, they want you to watch their content on any screen. The deals they’ve made to-date coupled with this latest venture with Sony only help to keep consumers completely tied into the ecosystem, spending money with Disney one way or another.