On August 31st, 2021, Disney launched a secondary streaming service in most of Latin America and Brazil called Star+. The purpose (according to them) was to house their general entertainment content from brands such as “Disney Television Studios, FX, 20th Century Studios, Star Original Productions, National Geographic Original Productions.” It also hosts live sports and replays of sporting events.
Bad From The Beginning
When Disney announced their plans, they were met with anger from Disney+ subscribers. While most of the world would get this content (sans sports) built in to Disney+ and accessible through a 6th brand tile, unfortunate subscribers in Latin America and Brazil would be forced to subscribe to a second streaming service and required to access the content via a second app, just like Americans who suffer from Hulu’s existence and hoarding of Disney content.
Failing The Caribbean
Disney+ Latin America and Brazil (including Central America, South America, and the Caribbean) launched at the same time November 2020. When the promotion began for Star+ those same countries received the e-mails encouraging them to sign up on August 31, 2021 and dangled the exciting programs coming at launch. The following Caribbean countries were amongst those shocked to find out on August 31st that Star+ had not arrived.
- Trinidad and Tobago
Worse, Disney has never publicly acknowledged or apologized for this misinformation and 1 year later they remain in the dark as to why they are not permitted to access Star in any way, whether it be via Star+ or Star brand tile. These loyal Disney fans have lost all legal access to Disney and Fox’s general entertainment library as Disney shut down their TV channels, removed titles from other services such as Prime Video or Netflix, and cut off TVOD availability at the same times as the rest of Latin America. These are the only countries on Earth with Disney+ that cannot stream Star content. USA has Hulu, Disney+ Hotstar countries get a full library as well.
We have time and time again raised this issue with “popular” Disney / streaming-focused entertainment journalists and not one has ever signal boosted the issue or even replied to us which strikes us as odd. Is everyone just sweeping the Caribbean under the rug?
Splitting The Simpsons
It didn’t get better from there. Disney Streaming’s content strategy kicked off with shady tactics that have won them no favors, such as moving the iconic Simpsons franchise they used to launch Disney+ in most regions to Star+. Disney+ Latin America / Brazil has seasons 29 and 30, but that’s it. The full series is on Star+. However, the special Disney+ shorts like When Billie Met Lisa are still on Disney+. The franchise is separated and it drives people batty. How bizarre to use a show that has become synonymous with Disney+ to launch a separate service in one region only. Additionally, residents of Latin America and Brazil lamented the “expensive” pricing and often shared with us that they felt used by Disney unfairly to reap extra profits.
Inconsistent, Tiny Library
Another major flaw is that much like Disney+, there is no true consistency to their content split. The conventional wisdom was that, like Hulu in USA, it would house Disney’s “mature” library, but Star+ has numerous child-friendly films that would be rated G or PG in USA. We hear a lot of frustration over that, as well as the fact that content Disney+ USA receives is sometimes pushed to Star+ (Snowdrop, Free Guy). Unfortunately, the United States has all sorts of similar problems with Disney Streaming violating their promises by consistently renewing family friendly series on Hulu or recently licensing a brand new Disney XD show to Hulu instead of Disney+ (Roman to the Rescue).
Star+ also shares another Disney+ issue – frequent false advertisement and no-shows.
Had to share this tweet because it’s hilarious. This is how people feel about Star+.
Since Star+ arrived, people have shared a similar opinion on how Disney should have handled Latin America and Brazil – launching ESPN+ and letting Disney+ have the Star brand tile like the rest of the world. Those sentiments have gotten stronger throughout the first year with the tweets we’ve read expressing disappointment in how few titles arrive each week. They feel “forgotten.” Recently some countries raised the price extraordinarily higher to, as they put it, “account for additional sports rights.”
Disney is damaging their chances and their reputation in Latin America and Brazil by bleeding their subscribers to pay for sports rights that many of them want nothing to do with. They never should have forcefully grouped “general entertainment” series and films with sports. Sports rights are expensive, it’s literally one of the most quoted reasons that traditional linear cable bundles have been dying. People are tired of footing the bill for content they don’t consume. The feelings that Star+ should have just been ESPN+ will only get stronger as more people learn of these statistics shared by insider Helison Medeiros.
Star+ Library Fizzles Out
Before Star+ launched, they provided guidance on their “Year One Content Volume” promising ~2,000 titles.
Helison’s numbers are eye-opening and show just how much Disney has failed to live up to their promises in the region. In Brazil as of July 2nd, they offer 1,187 titles. 964 are films, 233 are series. In Latin America they provide 1,133 titles consisting of 897 films and 236 series. Obviously that doesn’t come close to the 2,000 they promised. With 2 months left, we can confidently state that Star+ has grossly underperformed.
He also notes that Latin America Star+ removed a whopping 40 titles in the past month without any warning! That’s something Star+ has in common with Disney+, the unprofessional, silent removal of content. Peacock, Netflix, Hulu, Paramount+, and HBO Max provide warning, as is the expectation for a subscription service. There is no chance based off the July list and possible August additions that Star+ even comes within 600 titles of their goal.
What About Sports?
In Brazil, Star+ streams over 3,510 replays of sporting events. In Latin America that number is 4,000+. They had planned for 10,000+ a year. We do not have statistics that tell us how close they got to that (how long do replays stick around?) but safe bet is they didn’t even come close..
Helison’s stats make it abundantly clear that Disney has betrayed those in Latin America and Brazil. The corporate greed that led to the misguided decision to launch Star+ instead of ESPN+ has resulted in an expensive mistake that Disney is still unwilling to admit they made. After fighting lawsuits by Starz before launch over the intended use of the Star+ name, Disney is too prideful to admit they invested tons of money in a service nobody wants. During those lawsuits, many people actively rooted against Disney, desperately clinging to hope that Star+ would be forced to cancel the launch and utilize the European or Asian “all-in-one” content strategy.
These numbers help show that the initial reactions and vitriol were all warranted. If Europe’s obnoxious quota requirements have shown anything, Disney is no longer afraid to fill Disney+ with licensed junk. There is also the new Sony deal that is promising to add a bunch of library to Disney+ around the world. In other words, any licensed content on Star+ like Chucky could finish out its contracted time on Disney+ and Disney could shift Star+ to being sports only.
Not only that, but on June 29th Disney finally unlocked full range of content ratings on Disney+ Latin American and Brazil when the Marvel Defenders series arrived. This means the entire world now has the ability to get any content on Disney+. All the excuses for Star+’s existence are evaporating, and based on comments via social media, people are rooting for that.
Here a 3 great responses to the announcement that the Defenders had arrived.
What To Do?
Star+ should shut down at the end of Year 1 or rebrand to ESPN+ and ditch the non-sports content. It’s truly not fair to anyone down there that they were saddled with this while the rest of the world got Star brand tile. Much like the USA Disney+ library, the Disney+ libraries in Latin American and Brazil are miniscule. Our global library page shows just how bad it is – the bottom of the barrel. The least content on Earth.
Star+ and Hulu splitting content doesn’t make Disney+ in any of our countries a great value and robs it of most variety. As much as Americans hate being stuck with so much content on Hulu, at least we are given the choice not to pay for sports. Overall, we see the launch of Star+ as anti-consumer and the splitting of the Simpsons franchise as manipulative. Now that we know they haven’t even come close to their content goals and with their silence in the Caribbean perhaps a sign that Star+ doesn’t have a long future, we will hopefully we see a major change soon.
Drew Ryan is a film, TV, and Disney geek. He has degrees in English, Student Personnel Administration, and Library & Information Science from Lawrence University, Concordia University-Wisconsin, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Interested in the minutia and licensing of streaming service content, he is always publishing lists, suggestions, and advocating for Disney’s missing library to be added to Disney+. Drew subscribes to Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Paramount+. You can find him waxing nostalgic over classic Disney Channel or geeking out over Marvel, CW shows, & Disney on Twitter.