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Sky ‘set to beat BT and Virgin to Disney Plus deal’

BT and Virgin Media could be shut out of carrying the new streamer

Sky is reportedly close to signing an exclusive partnership deal with Disney Plus.

If the multi-year deal goes through, it would leave BT and Virgin Media out in the cold in terms of giving their customers access to the new streamer, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

It’s thought the deal will be similar to the one Sky recently agreed with Netflix, enabling Sky Q customers to take up Netflix’s basic plan as part of their subscription, while the streaming firm’s shows and films are integrated into the pay-TV operator’s home screen.

The Telegraph also reports that EE is looking to bundle Disney Plus subscriptions in with selected mobile contracts.

As confirmed last week, Disney Plus launches in the UK on 24th March.

According to Richard Broughton, research director at Ampere Analysis, Disney’s relationship with Sky has been a crucial component of the company’s distribution strategy in Europe to-date.

“The launch of Disney+ without any relationship in place risked two negatives for Disney,” he tells TVBEurope. “One, forgoing the licensing revenue generated from content sales to Sky (across Europe, Disney’s wider content agreements with Sky could be worth somewhere in the region of £1 billion – give or take – although not all of this is at immediate risk), and leaving Disney with a cliff edge scenario, which would be impossible to fill with Disney+ revenues.

“And two, the reach which Sky has. Sky controls access to close to 40 per cent of UK households. While it would certainly not be impossible for Disney to sell Disney Plus into these homes without an ‘onboarding’ deal, it would certainly make progress slower. And in an increasingly crowded market.

“For Sky, if it can secure an exclusive deal, it locks out the competition and ensures that even as the market becomes increasingly fragmented, Sky remains the UK’s premium content gatekeeper,” adds Broughton.

UPDATE: 28/1/2020

The Sunday Telegraph has since amended its report to say Virgin Media and BT would still be able to offer the Disney Plus app to their subscribers, but would not be able to offer Disney Plus fully integrated with other programming. Both Sky and Disney Plus have declined to comment on the report.