Disney+ glitch is causing missing episodes for fan-favorite series

Disney has confirmed an issue impacting its Disney+ service that led to missing episodes for a number of popular series on its service, including those from its Disney, Pixar, and Marvel properties.

These include “Hannah Montana,” “Ducktales,” Once Upon A Time,” “X-Men And The Wolverine,” “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Agent Carter,” “Big City Greens,” “The Proud Family,” “Austin & Ally,” “Big Hero 6,” “The Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Good Luck Charlie,” “Bizaardvark,” “Lab Rats Elite Force,” “Marvel Rising,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” “The Owl House,” among many others.

When TechCrunch alerted the company on the issue, a spokesperson said they were working to address the problem:

We are actively working to resolve the issue impacting access to a subset of series episodes for some Disney+ subscribers. We are sorry for the experience and appreciate everyone’s patience.

The issues were first reported by the Disney+-focused site, What’s On Disney Plus, based on user complaints arising in their Facebook group.

TechCrunch can also confirm that my personal account is missing the first episode of “Hannah Montana,” as well as “Ducktales.”

Image Credits: Disney+

Users noticed some Disney+ shows were more full than others while some had a huge chunk of episodes that had seemingly disappeared into the void.

“Agent Carter” stood out the most, with only a mere four episodes from season one available on the service. Meanwhile, season three of “Austin & Ally” had only two episodes.

Image Credits: Disney+

According to What’s On Disney Plus, these missing episodes are still showing up in Disney+ in other countries such as the U.K., so they’ve not been completely removed.

Some Facebook group members suspected that this is a tech issue (which is what we would have guessed originally), while others had gone more onto the conspiracy side of things. Some were jumping to conclusions, without evidence, by suggesting that Disney was planning to move the shows with missing episodes over to Hulu or that topics discussed in these episodes were controversial. One member suggested the possibility that this was Disney’s attempt to prevent people from pirating the entire series and selling them.

While these were interesting and certainly far-fetched theories, we now know that the streaming service just has a glitch, and the team aims to fix it soon enough.

Disney+ subscribers have noticed missing episodes before. On March 28, the Australian animated series “Bluey” had two missing episodes as well as 20 shorts that weren’t streaming on the service.

Plus, users have previously noticed that episode one of “The Little Mermaid” was missing, despite being available to watch on Google Play and YouTube. “TaleSpin” also lacked two episodes, which was strange since a total of 63 episodes are already on the service. The web series “Just Roll With It” was reportedly missing its Bloopers episode. Episodes disappeared from “Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles,” and “The Replacements” was missing an entire season. “The Simpsons,” “Andi Mack,” “The Muppets,” along with others, were also missing episodes.

“DuckTales” had another episode missing, which is titled “Sphinx for the Memories.” Deja View suggested that the portrayal of Egyptians was offensive, and therefore had to be taken down. But that was never confirmed.

In addition, “The Shake It Up” episode titled “Party it Up” was missing from Disney+. There has been no reason confirmed behind this decision, and it could easily be a mistake. However, it’s important to note that actress Demi Lovato, who starred in “Sonny With a Chance,” criticized the episode for using an insensitive eating disorder joke.

Also, “Darkwing Duck” has an episode called “Hot Spells,” which is apparently missing in the U.S., yet available in Thailand and Malaysia. TechCrunch recently covered Disney+ taking down Charlie Sheen-led “Hot Shots” from the U.S. service as it was mistakingly added.

At the time of launch, Disney+ was missing a ton of titles because they were held up with other streaming contracts. For instance, Netflix had Disney’s “Tarzan,” “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” “Christopher Robin,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” and “Coco,” which have since, for the most part, returned to their rightful home.

It’s unclear when the episodes will return to the service, but Disney says they are working to resolve the issue.

Disney’s streaming biz reorg includes an international content hub, plans to double Disney+ footprint

Disney announced today it plans on expanding its direct-to-consumer streaming business to more global markets and is creating a new International Content and Operations group to aid in this push. The group will be headed by nearly 25-year Disney veteran Rebecca Campbell, who will focus on local and regional content production for Disney’s streaming services, while also overseeing Disney’s international teams. The new role will report directly to Disney CEO Bob Chapek. The company also today offered an update on its current streaming footprint and 2023 forecast for Disney+.

As of the end of fiscal 2021, Disney says it had 179 million total subscriptions across Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu.  It plans to more than double the number of countries Disney+ is available in to over 160 by its fiscal 2023.

Though the new international content group is new, Disney says it already has more than 340 local and regional titles in various stages of production and development for its streaming services. That number will grow over time, as Campbell, who previously served as Chairman of International Operations and Direct-to-Consumer, will focus on expanding the international content pipeline. In her expanded role, she’ll also continue to overseas teams in Asia Pacific, EMEA, India, and Latin America.

The creation of the International Content and Operations group gives Disney a fourth home for content creation, alongside its Studios Content, General Entertainment Content, and Sports Content groups, Disney says. This addition highlights the importance of establishing an expanded global footprint in streaming to better compete with streamers like Netflix, which is still trying to figure out how to win subscribers in some markets, like India, where it recently had to cut prices. HBO Max has also had its eye on gaining an international footprint, with recent launches in parts of Europe.

In addition to the new international content hub, Disney has also reorganized other parts of its streaming business.

The company promoted Joe Earley, previously EVP, Marketing & Operations for Disney+, as the new President of Hulu. He’ll report to Michael Paull, who has been promoted to the newly created role of President, Disney Streaming, which will be accountable for Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, and Star+ globally. Paull’s prior role as head of Disney+ has yet to be filled. In his new position, he reports to Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) Chairman, Kareem Daniel.

“Disney’s direct-to-consumer efforts have progressed at a tremendous pace in just a few short years, and our organization has continued to grow and evolve in support of our ambitious global streaming strategy,” Chapek said, in a statement announcing the organizational changes. “Rebecca has played a vital role in orchestrating our global platform expansion, and I’m excited that she will be leading our new International Content group, bringing her expertise and talent to oversee the growing pipeline of original local and regional content for our streaming services while continuing to lead our international operations. Likewise, with a relentless focus on serving consumers, Kareem has developed an industry-leading team of seasoned executives who are uniquely equipped to take our streaming business into Disney’s next century.”


YouTube TV settles its contract dispute with Disney, credits customers $15

Last week, YouTube warned customers they may lose access to Disney-owned channels on its YouTube TV streaming service by the end of the week if the two companies couldn’t come to a new carriage agreement. As of Friday, negotiations fell through and YouTube TV alerted customers it would have to drop Disney channels from its service and would lower its pricing for customers. But over the weekend, things turned around. On Sunday, YouTube announced a new agreement had been reached, but it will still offer customers a $15 credit for the disruption.

YouTube updated its blog post where it had been keeping customers informed about its contract dispute to say that it had reached a new agreement that will allow Disney to continue to stream its content on YouTube TV. That means the pricing for YouTube TV customers won’t drop down to the lower rate, as had been warranted when it looked like the channels would be removed. Instead, YouTube TV will continue at the usual rate of $64.99 per month.

The new deal will include Disney’s networks, like ESPN and FX, as well as Disney’s on-demand and live content, as before. Customers with recordings from Disney properties in their YouTube TV Library will also see those restored. And YouTube TV noted that users would see their local ABC stations return to the service by the end of the day on Sunday.

Had an agreement not been reached, YouTube TV customers would have lost access to a large number of streaming channels and on-demand content offerings. In total, 18 Disney-owned channels were impacted, including users’ local ABC station, ABC News Live, The Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNews, SEC Network, and ACC Network.

YouTube had also promised its members a $15 discount while Disney content remained off its platform, as a result of the contractual dispute. Even though Disney’s programming had only been removed for a day, YouTube announced on Sunday it will still honor a one-time credit for all impacted members.

Members who haven’t already received their $15 discount on their monthly bill will see it applied to their next bill. No action will be needed on members’ parts to receive the credit. In addition, if customers had opted to cancel due to the failed negotiations, YouTube says they’ll be able to return by visiting the website (tv.youtube.com/membership), then clicking “add” to return the Base plan to their membership. Members who had paused their membership will receive the credit one month after their first charge, the company noted. Members who are in a paused state will receive this credit one month after their first charge. (More details are on a dedicated website.)

Only weeks ago, YouTube had been on the other side of the negotiations table in a contract dispute with Roku over its YouTube and YouTube TV apps. This one was later resolved without either company sharing deals as to how they settled what had been serious allegations on Roku’s part about Google’s increased demands to use data and anticompetitive behavior.

Hulu is raising the price on its on-demand plans by $1 starting Oct. 8

Following last year’s price hike on its Live TV service, Hulu is now preparing to raise prices again. Starting on October 8, 2021, Hulu will raise the price for both its on-demand plans, Hulu and Hulu with No Ads. However, unlike the earlier price hike which had clocked in at $10 more per month for each of its two Live TV plans, the new price increase will be just $1.00.

That means the ad-supported version of Hulu will increase from $5.99 to $6.99 per month, while Hulu with No Ads will increase from $11.99 to $12.99 per month. This will apply to both existing and new subscribers. Hulu says none of the October increases will impact its Live TV service or any plan where Hulu is bundled with Disney+. (Disney took full control of Hulu after buying Comcast’s stake in 2019).

Today, Hulu is offered with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13.99 per month. This subtle shift in pricing for Hulu’s standalone service may make that bundle look attractive to those not in the market for Hulu’s live TV.

Hulu’s on-demand service accounts for the majority of its subscriber base today. In Disney’s fiscal third quarter earnings, announced last month, Hulu’s subscription video on-demand business had grown 22% year-over-year to reach 39.1 million subscribers, while its Live TV service (which also include the on-demand offerings), had grown just 9% to reach 3.7 million subscribers. Combined, Hulu had 42.8 million total subscribers, up 21% compared to the same period from the prior year.

This is slower growth, however, than Disney+ — that service saw more than 100% year-over-year growth, jumping from 57.7 million subscribers as of Disney’s Q3 2020 to 116 million in Disney’s Q3 2021.

Including Disney’s EPSN+, the company’s direct-to-consumer business had a total of nearly 174 million subscribers by the end of the quarter, the company said.

However, although Hulu trails Disney+ in subscriber count, it’s ahead on average monthly revenue per user (ARPU).

In Q3, ARPU declined from $4.62 to $4.16 due to a higher mix of Disney+ Hotstar subscribers compared with the prior-year quarter, Disney said. Hulu’s on-demand service, meanwhile, saw ARPU climb from $11.39 to $13.15 year-over-year and its Live TV service (+SVOD) grew from $68.11 to $84.09.

Hulu’s on-demand business includes a combination of licensed content and original programming, like newer arrivals “Nine Perfect Strangers,” “Only Murders in the Building,” and “Vacation Friends.” The company also just added thousands of Hotstar Specials and Bollywood hits, as of September 1.


With lower bandwidth, Disney+ opens streaming service in UK, Ireland, 5 other European countries, France to come online April 7

Disney+, the streaming service from the Walt Disney Company, has been rapidly ramping up in the last several weeks. But while some of that expansion has seen some hiccups, other regions are basically on track. Today, as expected, Disney announced that it is officially launching in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Switzerland; it also reconfirmed the delayed debut in France will be coming online on April 7.

Seven is the operative number here, it seems: it’s the largest multi-country launch so far for the service.

“Launching in seven markets simultaneously marks a new milestone for Disney+,“ said Kevin Mayer, Chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, in a statement. “As the streaming home for Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, and National Geographic, Disney+ delivers high-quality, optimistic storytelling that fans expect from our brands, now available broadly, conveniently, and permanently on Disney+. We humbly hope that this service can bring some much-needed moments of respite for families during these difficult times.”

Pricing is £5.99/€6.99 per month, or £59.99/€69.99 for an annual subscription. Belgium, the Nordics, and Portugal, will follow in summer 2020.

The service being rolled out will feature 26 Disney+ Originals plus an “extensive collection” of titles (some 500 films, 26 exclusive original movies and series and thousands of TV episodes to start with) from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and other content producers owned by the entertainment giant, in what has been one of the boldest moves yet from a content company to go head-to-head with OTT streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

The expansion of Disney+ has been caught a bit in the crossfire of world events. The new service is launching at what has become an unprecedented time for streaming: because of the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of of the world is being told to stay home.

That means huge demand for new services to entertain and distract people who are now sheltering in place. But it has also been putting a huge strain on broadband networks, and to be a responsible streamer (and to make sure quality is not too impacted), Disney confirmed (as it previously said it would) it would be launching the service with “lower overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25%.

Titles in the mix debuting today include “The Mandalorian” live-action Star Wars series; a live-action “Lady and the Tramp,” “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,”; “The World According to Jeff Goldblum” docuseries from National Geographic; “Marvel’s Hero Project,” which celebrates extraordinary kids making a difference in their communities; “Encore!,” executive produced by the multi-talented Kristen Bell; “The Imagineering Story” a 6-part documentary from Emmy and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks and animated short film collections “SparkShorts” and “Forky Asks A Question” from Pixar Animation Studios.

Some 600 episodes of “The Simpsons” is also included (with the latest season 31 coming later this year).

With entire households now being told to stay together and stay inside, we’re seeing a huge amount of pressure being put on to broadband networks and a true test of the multiscreen approach that streaming services have been building over the years. In this case, you can use all the usuals: mobile phones, streaming media players, smart TVs and gaming consoles to watch the Disney+ service (including Amazon devices, Apple devices, Google devices, LG Smart TVs with webOS, Microsoft’s Xbox Ones, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs and Sony / Sony Interactive Entertainment, with the ability to use four concurrent streams per subscription, or up to 10 devices with unlimited downloads. As you would expect, there is also the ability to set up parental controls and individual profiles.

Carriers with paid-TV services that are also on board so far include Deutsche Telekom, O2 in the UK, Telefonica in Spain, TIM in Italy and Canal+ in France when the country comes online. No BT in the UK, which is too bad for me (sniff). Sky and NOW TV are also on board.

Homebound parents rejoice, Disney is releasing Frozen 2 on its streamer on Sunday

Late Friday night, Disney said that it would be making Frozen 2 available this Sunday, March 15.

The accelerated release date, a full three months ahead of its planned date, comes as all sorts of release schedules, premieres, and even entire new seasons of television shows are canceled or paused as Hollywood crafts its own response to the CoVID-19 outbreak.

“‘Frozen 2’ has captivated audiences around the world through its powerful themes of perseverance and the importance of family, messages that are incredibly relevant during this time, and we are pleased to be able to share this heartwarming story early with our Disney+ subscribers to enjoy at home on any device,” said Disney’s new CEO Bob Chapek in a statement.

Disney (along with Fox, which it owns) has pushed back the release of anticipated films like the live action version of “Mulan”, the Marvel superhero movie, “The New Mutants”, and the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror film, “Antlers”.

Pushing up the release date on “Frozen 2” makes sense, given that Disney is now basically a television, streaming and gaming company — much like every other studio struggling to adapt to the need for social distancing is prompting movie theaters to either close or dramatically reduce their capacity. At the same time, there have been reports that Disney has had issues producing original shows and movies for its streaming service.

The company previously pushed up the streaming release date of “Avengers: Endgame” to coincide with the launch of Disney+.

Internationally, the company is making “Frozen 2” available on Disney+ in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday, March 17.

U.S. audiences wanting to watch the movie on Sunday will only be able to stream it in high def. Ultra HD video playback isn’t going to be available until Tuesday.

Investors and startups are seeking ways to entertain and protect kids online

As streaming services like HBO Max, Netflix and Disney+ plus vie for subscription dollars and YouTube, Xumo, Kanopy, Tubi TV, Vudu and Pluto TV try to take more ad revenue from traditional television, entertainment for kids — and the tech tools that manage their screen time — are becoming more important.

On the streaming side, Netflix has been marshaling its resources for months, poaching talent like Chris Nee, creator of the “Doc Mcstuffins” Disney Channel series, Naketha Mattocks (“The Descendants”) and Kenny Ortega (“High School Musical”) — to join its stable of creative talent. HBO Max locked in several years of “Sesame Street” shows, which will be available when its service launches in May. Finally, there’s Disney+, which has racked up 28.6 million subscribers for its service as of February 3.

Recognizing the threat, ad-supported platforms are coming up with their own responses. Some of these platforms also stream the same programs that are available on the subscription services, but as exclusivity becomes more important, audiences and entertainers can expect platforms like YouTube, Facebook and others to spend more heavily on original shows that attract younger audiences.

For instance, Facebook intends to spend $1.4 billion on programming for its Facebook Watch service, according to a report in The Information.

How the founder of Pocketwatch sees the future of children’s entertainment

When Chris Williams founded entertainment platform Pocketwatch in 2017, he was certain that no one had yet found the right way to work with the generation of children’s talent finding its audience on platforms like YouTube.

Convinced that packaging creators under one umbrella and leveraging the expanding reach of even more media platforms could reshape the way children’s content was produced, the former Maker Studios and Disney executive launched his company to offer emerging social media talent more avenues to create entertainment that resonates with young audiences.

On the back of the breakout success of Ryan’s World, a YouTube channel which counted 33.6 billion views and more than 22 million subscribers as of early November, it appears that Williams was on the right track. As he looks out at the children’s media landscape today, Williams says he sees the same forces at work that compelled him to create the business in the first place. If anything, he says, the trends are only accelerating.

The first is the exodus of children from traditional linear viewing platforms to on-demand entertainment. The rise of subscription streaming services, including Disney+, HBO Max and Apple Plus — combined with the continued demand for new children’s programming on Netflix — is creating a bigger market for children’s programming.

“If you’re a subscription-based service, what kids’ content does for you is it prevents churn,” says Williams.

That’s drawing attention from new, ad-supported streaming providers like the Roku Channel, PlutoTV and SamsungTV Plus, which are also thirsty for children’s storytelling. Williams says he sees fertile ground for new programming among the ad-based, video-on-demand services. “Kids and family content tends to be the most highly engaging that creates consumption in homes. That creates a lot of opportunities for advertisers.”

The Roku Channel and Viacom’s PlutoTV service show that there’s still demand for ad-supported, on-demand alternatives that are more curated than just YouTube. It’s a potential opportunity for more startups, as well as an opportunity for studios looking to pitch their talent and programming.

“When we’ve launched a new 24-7 video channel and AVOD library and omni services… [we] know that content is surrounded by other premium content,” says Williams.

For all of the opportunities these new platforms bring, Williams says YouTube isn’t going anywhere as one of the dominant new forces in children’s entertainment,  despite its many, many woes. In fact, one of Williams’ new initiatives at Pocketwatch is predicated on changes that YouTube is seemingly making in terms of the programming that it promotes with its algorithms.

Disney+ adds ‘Continue Watching’ feature

The launch of Disney+ has been successful in terms of sign-ups and adoption, but the user experience wasn’t quite up to par with what you get from other streaming services out the gate. Most noticeable was the lack of an easy way to pick up streaming where you left off – but that changes with a new “Continue Watching” section being added to the app’s homepage across all platforms where Disney+ is available as of today.

It should show up automatically as a new fourth row, under the “Originals” section. It behaves just as you’d expect, giving you a list of in-progress movies and shows that you’re watching, with a progress bar and the amount of time remaining. Tapping any of the images will jump right back into that content at the place where you left off, and the resume feature works across your logged in devices.

Turns out that this feature was supposed to be live at launch but was removed temporarily prior to the service going live so that the service’s engineers could focus on making sure other elements worked as intended for consumers. Disney+ still had its share of launch issues, including temporary inaccessibility due to overwhelming volume.