Disney Plus

I've been waiting for Disney to bring us a streaming subscription for my entire adult life. There are subscriptions for anime, wrestling, Broadway show recordings — yeah, really, and it's been tempting me for three years — but Disney has so far left its content to third-party subscriptions and online movie retailers, and honestly, I don't blame it.

In this world where there's a subscription for every content niche ever imagined, brand alone isn't enough to sell a streaming service. YouTube Music reminded us last year not even the most drop-dead accurate Your Mixtape can save a platform that doesn't work properly, and Disney's brand is too important to risk on anything other than perfection.

So it's been biding its time, testing its tech, and with the success of the ESPN+ test balloon it's finally ready to bring it all together into what may be the highest-demand service on the market: Disney+.

HuluMovies Anywhere

As one of the founding companies of Hulu and the originator of the KeyChest digital locker system that eventually birthed Movies Anywhere, Disney has been in the streaming game longer than most would realize. It's even dabbled with direct, all-in-one subscriptions before with DisneyLife in the UK, which offers access to Disney films, TV shows (old and new), music and e-books for 5£ a month.

It doesn't just need to work; it needs to work flawlessly.

But Disney's name-branded U.S. streaming service is something that's going to see high traffic volumes and be used on every platform conceivable. It doesn't just need to work; it needs to work flawlessly, especially during big events like series premieres and home releases of the latest Disney films. While you can stress test platforms like these to some degree, nothing's going to compare to real-world testing, which is exactly what ESPN+ is here for.

Actually, ESPN+ is here for a number of reasons, but being the guinea pig that puts the platform BAMTech built for Disney — who acquired a 75 percent stake of back in 2017 — through its paces is probably its most important role. ESPN+ launched in April of 2018 and in less than a year, this service grew to over 2 million subscribers, it integrated seamlessly with the ESPN app, which is way more of an accomplishment than it gets credit for, and it pulled off a high-demand live-streaming event that has wreaked havoc on lesser systems: a UFC Fight Night.


Pay-per-view-type events like Fight Night are big money for streaming services — ESPN+ added 568,000 new subscribers in 2 days for its first UFC Fight Night on January 19 — but they can also stress a streaming system to its absolute limit and ruin a highly-anticipated event. The PPV match between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods last fall had such horrendous technical difficulties that nearly ever cable provider that sold the event ended up issuing refunds and streaming issues with UFC's Mayweather-McGregor fight led to a class action lawsuit last April, weeks before UFC announced their partnership with ESPN+.

Granted, ESPN has never been a stranger to live-streaming events; ESPN+ is streaming over 1,400 live events in February alone, but the service's flawless handling of big-ticket events like Fight Night is a huge accomplishment. Disney CEO Bob Iger was quick to champion it to shareholders during the company's quarterly earnings call:

"[W]hat we've learned — which is extremely valuable as it relates to future launches, particularly at Disney+ — is that the BAMTech platform that we invested in … is an extremely robust platform, capable of handling not only scale in terms of live streaming simultaneously, but a substantial number of transactions in a very short period of time. I mean, there were times before the UFC fight that BAMTech was taking in or making just under 15,000 transactions a minute, and the stability of the platform is critical in times like that."

Yes, we tend to focus on content for streaming services — after all, if there's nothing to watch, what's the point? — but without the strong, secure foundation BAMTech's platform gives to Disney's streaming offerings, Disney+ wouldn't be nearly the sure bet that it looks like today. Whether you'll tune in to feed your inner child or to appease your actual child's demands to watch Frozen for the 4th time today — only 7 months to Frozen 2! — Disney+ should be the reliable, magical service I've been waiting over a decade for.

And when it launches, I'll be waiting, Mickey Bar in hand.