Disney shutters Disney Movies Online

At the same time that the Walt Disney Company launches a new Video on Demand service in Europe, it has confirmed that its existing American VOD service, Disney Movies Online, is to close for business at the end of the year. Mixed messages, or a sign that Disney is taking Video on Demand more seriously than it used to?

Disney announced a new partnership with Spanish company Wuaki.tv yesterday that will give subscribers of the latter what’s being described as “a selection of some of the world’s most loved Disney and Disney/Pixar movies” under the umbrella title Disney Movies on Demand. According to Walt Disney Spain & Portugal manager Simon Amselem, “Launching a Disney-branded SVOD movie library service in Spain is a logical next step in our distribution strategy, complementing our existing agreements with other linear and non-linear broadcasters and platforms,” with Wukai.tv CEO Jacinto Roca describing the partnership as being “in line with Wuaki.tv’s priority of pioneering the best premium content distribution via the Internet, allowing consumers to choose what they see, when they want to see it, directly on their TV or game console.”

The partnership with Wuaki.tv is Disney’s second such deal recently, following a similar deal with Zon in Portugal. Here in the US, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that Disney was pulling away from the VOD space with the December closure of its three-year-old service Disney Movies Online, which allowed customers to purchase or stream Disney and Pixar content online. Initially leaked as a rumor, confirmation came in the form of a message that appeared on the Disney Movies Online website, telling customers that the site will close on December 31, although purchases, upgrades and “Magic Code entries” have already been disabled in advance of the closure (Refunds can be requested by email, it explained for those who wanted them).

In a statement about the closure, Disney explained that “The digital environment is rapidly evolving, and Disney Movies Online does not have the flexibility that many users today demand. We made a business decision to close the service until we are able to provide the greatest value and experience to our customers.”

The company is already working on the replacement for the service, which is currently called Disney Movies Anywhere, although sources tell the Hollywood Reporter that the Disney Movies Online closure shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Disney Movies Anywhere is necessarily anywhere close to launching. One of the changes between the two services is that DMA is expected to include multiple devices in its streaming package, as opposed to DMO’s reliance on a web browser, although it may also be worth considering the possibility for DMA to offer more than just Disney or Pixar-branded entertainment. After all, Disney does now own both Marvel and Lucasfilm, and both of those may be an enticement to sign up for many people…

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