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Disney to close 100 international TV channels in streaming shift

Walt Disney Co. plans to close 100 of its international TV channels this year as it marches toward a future where streaming services such as Disney+ are front and center.

Chief Executive Officer Bob Chapek, speaking Monday at JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s technology and media conference, said the closures come in addition to the 30 foreign networks the company shuttered last year.

“The great majority of that content will migrate to Disney+,” Chapek said. “That continues to be a core strategy for us as we pivot toward direct-to-consumer.”

The company’s purge of networks last year included the Disney Channel in the U.K., part of Chapek’s efforts to streamline and modernize the entertainment giant. This year, the company has added more content for grown-ups to its Disney+ offering in Europe, using the Star brand. Chapek said the majority of Disney+ customers in the region have begun watching the Star programming.

Disney introduced Disney+ Hotstar in India last year. That service, which features cricket matches and other local content, now accounts for 30% of Disney+’s total subscriber count of 103.6 million globally. In April, meanwhile, Disney announced plans to close a number of its sports networks in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong.

Chapek said Monday that the closures will depend on contracts the company has in individual markets. Profits from some of Disney’s traditional TV networks are helping pay for programming that can run on its streaming services, which include Hulu and ESPN+ in the U.S.

But consumers are increasingly choosing to watch content online, and Disney wants to stay ahead of the trend, Chapek said.

“We don’t want to be on the back end of that wave,” he said. “We want to be on the front end of that wave.” Bloomberg

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