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Can Disney+ secure the streaming rights to the Sony Spider-Man movies?

Can Disney+ secure the streaming rights to the Sony Spider-Man movies?


Streaming service president Michael Paull says Disney has ‘a ton of commitment’ to securing its films

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Image: Sony Pictures

Disney is racing to re-acquire the streaming rights to some of its biggest movies, since the digital ownership of many of its titles has changed over the last decade. Now, as Sony and Disney’s Marvel Studios seem ready to end their relationship, questions about whether Disney will buy the rights to Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far From Home for its new streaming service, Disney+, have entered the equation.

But the company isn’t ready to offer any clear answer at this moment. Disney+ streaming service president Michael Paull told The Verge during an interview at D23, the company’s biennial conference, that Disney “has nothing to announce on that” at this time.

Still, it’s hard to imagine that Disney wouldn’t want to bring the two popular Spider-Man movies to Disney+. The company’s goal is to have as many exclusive titles as possible on Disney+ eventually, including all the film’s it’s produced as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That would include Homecoming and Far From Home. Paull couldn’t talk about Spider-Man officially (trade publications are reporting that Disney and Sony are still in talks about the character’s future), but he said there’s “obviously a ton of commitment within the company” to get all its big players back.

“I think as you can see from what we’re making available, and from seeing some of the titles that we’re making available at launch, there’s been a lot of effort that went into bringing it all back together so that we could make it available on the service,” Paull said.

Disney is finding itself in the same position as companies like AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Comcast’s NBCUniversal: it’s trying to buy back rights to its own content in order to offer more exclusivity. That’s why WarnerMedia apparently paid approximately $450 million for all 10 seasons of Friends, and NBCUniversal reportedly paid around $500 million for the entire run of The Office.

Disney took a $150 million hit when it broke its streaming-rights contract with Netflix early in an effort to launch Disney+ with as many original, exclusive titles as possible. That includes Star Wars movies. The entire Star Wars collection will be available on Disney+ at launch, as Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and Disney CEO Bob Iger both confirmed during a Disney+ investors day in April.

Only four Marvel movies will reportedly be available to stream when Disney+ launches on November 12thCaptain Marvel, Thor: The Dark World, Iron Man, and Iron Man 3. Avengers: Endgame will be available to stream in December. The company is hoping to add a few more titles by the end of 2020. That isn’t exactly the full collection putative subscribers were hoping for — but chasing back the rights to the company’s movies is clearly a goal, as Paull pointed out.

The question is whether Homecoming and Far From Home are a part of that future — and whether Sony is willing to license the rights, given its dispute with Disney over future collaborations.