Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS)
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By Erich Schwartzel
Walt Disney Co.'s big streaming debut arrived with technical glitches that the company blamed on unexpectedly high demand.
The company's new flagship service, called Disney+, was launched Tuesday and immediately caused technical issues for some users, many of whom took to social media to complain about long wait times and error messages.
"The consumer demand for Disney+ has exceeded our highest expectations," a Disney spokeswoman said. "While we are pleased by this incredible response, we are aware of the current user issues and are working to swiftly resolve them. We appreciate your patience."
Disney has been under intense pressure to get this launch right. The company acquired BamTech, a streaming-technology company, to build the technical infrastructure of the app, and is spending hundreds of millions of dollars producing movies and television shows for the service. The new emphasis on a streaming service meant to be viewed from home represents a strategic pivot for a company that until now has been most successful in getting people to movie theaters and theme parks.
Disney+ has been marketed to users for months, and many of those trying to watch on Tuesday bought three-year subscriptions to the service at a significant discount. Users signing up now can either pay $6.99 a month or an annual rate of $69.99 after a seven-day trial.
Disney+ is "one of the most important initiatives we've ever engaged," Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said at a preview presentation of the service last week. "Obviously, the public will vote," he said.
Siobhan Ramos, a 36-year-old mother of two in Lakeland, Fla., tried to get Disney+ to work on an Xbox, a smart TV, her children's tablets and a laptop.
"It just would let us scroll, but it wouldn't let us play anything," Mrs. Ramos said.
She called a help line listed on the Disney+ website, but each time she did, the call was canceled or it sounded like someone had answered and hung up, she said.
Mrs. Ramos and her family -- "super Disney fans," she said, with an "Avengers"-themed room in their house and annual passes to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. -- signed up for a three-year, discounted subscription to Disney+.
They already had Netflix Inc., but when they saw the programming that would be available on Disney+, "we canceled our cable and we got this instead," she said.
After a few hours of not working, Disney+ began streaming shows for her, she said, but would occasionally stop. One of her sons was watching a live-action remake of "Dumbo" early Tuesday morning.
"I'm afraid to turn it off in case it stops working again," she said.
Elsewhere, an attempt to watch the "Star Wars" spinoff "The Mandalorian" on Tuesday was met with a loading page that lasted for more than 90 minutes and still never resulted in the show starting. Other users said online that their attempts to watch a movie or TV show were met with error messages that said, "There seems to be an issue connecting to the Disney+ service."
The error messages appeared with animated Disney figures such as Pluto and characters from "Ralph Breaks the Internet." A thread of comments on Reddit dedicated to Disney+ technical-support issues had more than 1,000 comments on Tuesday morning.
Disney launched a trial version of Disney+ in the Netherlands earlier this year, to gauge consumer demand and iron out technical kinks. Users there offered generally positive reviews but complained about a few features, such as low volume and an inability to resume playing a program where it had left off.
--Joe Flint and Drew FitzGerald contributed to this article.
Write to Erich Schwartzel at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 12, 2019 12:37 ET (17:37 GMT)
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