Frozen for the wrong reasons: Disney+ launch is off to a bumpy start
Did Disney leave "Wreck-It Ralph" in charge?
The launch of Walt Disney’s ambitious and highly anticipated Disney+ streaming service Tuesday got off to a bumpy start, tangled in a series of problems, from sign-on difficulties and error messages to screens that were left, um, frozen.
Perhaps Ralph did break the Internet.
Subscribers eager to check out the debut of "The Mandalorian," the first "Star Wars" live-action TV series and one of the would-be crown jewels of the new service, may think so. They're finding that a reliable streaming galaxy is, indeed, still far, far away.
Disney devotees hoping to consume classic films such as "Bambi," "Fantasia" and "The Lion King" from the company’s rich vault – not to mention Marvel diehards who can’t get enough of "The Avengers" or "Iron Man" – were also left in the dark.
There’s certainly been no shortage of interest in Disney+ ($6.99 monthly or $69.99 annually), the entertainment giant's entry into the increasingly congested subscription-based streaming landscape that is already occupied by, among others, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Apple.
Disney's pitch to a family-friendly audience is built around nearly 500 movies and 7,500 TV episodes, all that leverage iconic properties: the Disney studio itself, plus Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
Out of the gate, many fans were frustrated.
Brian Clackley (@TheClickClacker) tweeted, “Sure hope this turns out better than the mydisneyexperience app which is constantly down. With all that money @Disney should be able to produce tech that works right on day one.”
Ben Lesh (@benlesh) tweeted, "My @disneyplus experience so far is underwhelming. LOL. … Some of it works. But not much. Black screens (no errors) for Marvel and Disney categories. Brand new Roku.”
Many USA TODAY staffers experienced similar growing pains checking out Disney+ on phones, tablets or set-top boxes. At least one, however, found the service streaming fine on a Roku Ultra and Apple TV 4K and simultaneously on the newer Roku and an older model elsewhere in the home.
Rich Greenfield, a media/tech/telecom analyst for LightShed Partners (@RichLightShed), tweeted that he had a "great login experience" and the "streaming was flawless."
The only problem? After watching the first episode of "The Mandalorian," there was no Episode 2 to watch, Greenfield said. (The next episode arrives Friday, and new episodes land weekly after that.)
Disney released and tweeted a statement acknowledging the problems: “The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our highest expectations. While we are pleased by this incredible response, we are aware of the current user issues and are working to swiftly resolve them. We appreciate your patience.”
The problems arose despite Disney owning one of the best streaming companies on the planet, Disney Streaming Services, which grew out of its purchase of a controlling interest in BAMTech in 2017. Major League Baseball launched BAMTech in 2000 to run its websites and went on to run streaming services for HBO, WWE and other sports leagues.
Even that couldn't lead to a magic carpet ride of a launch. "Clearly, they failed to anticipate demand," said Michael Pachter, industry analyst with Wedbush Securities. "I would say they have till Sunday to get this fixed permanently. Once they cross a week, people will give up on the service."
How can the company make amends?
Andy Shapiro (@andyshapiro) tweeted one idea: "I think the only reasonable response Disney can give after #DisneyPlus fails on launch day is to provide all registered users free annual passes to Disneyland. Do the right thing, guys.”