(UPDATE 2 – 30 Apr / 10:20 PM): TM has released an official statement in regards to Disney’s latest move. Read more for details.
(UPDATE 1 – 29 Apr / 9:50 AM): Disney has confirmed that the company will indeed trim down its TV channels later this year. Read further to check out the official statement from the company.
ORIGINAL STORY (27 Apr / 4:57 PM):
Disney will be shutting down the majority of its TV channels in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong later this year. The decision was reportedly revealed to its staff during a town hall session this morning.
According to the report by ContentAsia, the reason behind the move was apparently due to a shift of focus to the direct-to-consumer business model in the form of streaming service. As you may know, the company has begun to offer Disney+ in Singapore and Indonesia while there were already major signs that service will be offered in Malaysia soon.
ContentAsia has also listed the 18 channels that will be closed by Disney:
Disney channels: Disney Channel, Disney Junior
Fox channels: Fox, Fox Crime, Fox Life, FX, Fox Movies, Fox Action Movies, Fox Family Movies, Fox Sports, Fox Sports 2, Fox Sports 3
National Geographics channels: Nat Geo People
Star channels: Star Movies China, SCM Legend, Star Sports 1, Star Sports 2
Others: Channel V
The closure of these channels will apparently take place on 1 October 2021 and only four channels will continue to be operational including National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, Star Chinese Channel, and Star Chinese Movies. The report also noted that the town hall session today did not discuss the impact of this decision on existing Disney’s staff within SEA and Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, this decision will definitely have a massive impact on Astro and unifi TV if this report proved to be true with the exception of Disney Channel and Disney Junior which have already been pulled out from Astro earlier this year. From the list above, many of them are currently available on both pay-TV platforms especially those that are under the Fox banner.
Not only that, the three Fox Sports channels carry plenty of major sporting events such as Formula 1, Australian Open, U.S Open, and many more. As live sports have always been seen as a major crowd puller for pay-TV services in Malaysia, this would not bode well for both Astro and unifi TV.
For now, even Disney’s broadcasting partners seem to be caught by surprise though. When we reached out to Astro to obtain clarifications, this was their response:
With reference to the news report that Disney plans to stop 18 of its linear channels in the Southeast Asia region of Oct 2021, we wish to inform that we are still waiting for detailed information from Disney.
We will update customers once we have full details.
As Disney and TM have not yet released any official statement on this matter, we are now reaching out to them to seek further information. We will keep you posted once we hear more.
(Source: ContentAsia [require subscription]. Image: chrisdorney / Shutterstock.)
(UPDATE 1 – 29 Apr / 9:50 AM):
In a statement to Lowyat.NET, Disney has since confirmed the report that the company is shutting down many of its TV channels for this region:
As part of The Walt Disney Company’s global effort to pivot towards a direct-to-consumer-first model and further grow our streaming services, the Company is consolidating its Media Networks business primarily in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.
Effective 1 October 2021, Disney will operate a streamlined television portfolio that covers Chinese language channels (Star Chinese Channel; Star Chinese Movies) and Factual Entertainment (National Geographic Channel; Nat Geo WILD).
These efforts will help us align our resources more efficiently and effectively to current and future business needs.
It is quite clear that Disney is going all-in with its streaming service. After all, more than 100 million paid subscribers have signed up for Disney+ in less than 2 years after its launch and there will be more to come as the service expands its reach to more markets this year.
The company has indeed identified Hong Kong as one of such market but remains tight-lipped when it comes to other expansions including Malaysia.
(UPDATE 2 – 30 Apr / 10:20 PM):
TM has responded to Lowyat.NET with a rather brief but very interesting statement. Here it is in full:
We applaud Disney’s decision to move into the OTT space. We live in a time that high quality broadband has enabled us to access a wide, rich, universe of entertainment that is ever expanding.
As the nation’s primary provider of home broadband, unifi will ensure that all our customers will continue to enjoy quality content on unifi TV that meets their entertainment needs.
When compared to Astro’s statement that we mentioned earlier, TM’s response seemed pretty…chill. There was not even a reference to the Fox, Fox Movies, Fox Sports, National Geographic channels that unifi TV will lose this coming October.
It made us rather curious and wonder if there is something happening behind the scene that made TM felt undisturbed by Disney’s latest move. That being said, the company did reiterate its commitment to unifi TV in its statement above. So, don’t expect the service to go away anytime soon.