Disney Channels the Force

The company has been trying for two decades to tame the internet. Its new video streaming service finally hits the mark. By Kara SwisherMs. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer. Nov. 15, 2019, 4:55 p.m. ET“The Mandalorian” is a centerpiece of Disney+, the company’s latest investment in digital and streaming.Credit…Francois Duhamel/Lucasfilm Ltd…

Disney Channels the Force

The company has been trying for two decades to tame the internet. Its new video streaming service finally hits the mark. By Kara SwisherMs. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer. Nov. 15, 2019, 4:55 p.m. ET“The Mandalorian” is a centerpiece of Disney+, the company’s latest investment in digital and streaming.Credit…Francois Duhamel/Lucasfilm Ltd and Disney+Have you heard of “The Mandalorian”?If not, you most certainly will, given that the Walt Disney Company signed up an impressive 10 million subscribers for the streaming video service it rolled out this week. “The Mandalorian” — a bounty-hunting, cape-heavy spinoff of the “Star Wars” franchise — is the flagship of the many original series that the company has stuffed into the new Disney Plus, its attempt to break into the crowded streaming space that for years has been dominated by Netflix.“Now is the winter of our Disney content,” someone tweeted perfectly.Wall Street is going crazy over the achievement and is lauding the company for what seems to many like an overnight digital success. But, while the praise is deserved, the story of Disney and the internet is more like “The Empire Finally Strikes Back”: The company has been trying for 25 years to tame the online medium, and most of its efforts have fallen flat.That’s why this triumph is certainly a credit to the Disney chief executive, Bob Iger, who told me of his commitment to getting digital right back in a 2006 interview, just after he got the top job. “If someone’s going to eat our digital lunch, it might as well be us,” he said.At that point, he must have been starving, since the company had already been through a decade of huge and ill-conceived tech missteps under his predecessor, Michael Eisner. Mr. Iger would continue struggling for years to cook up the right meal, but his efforts will become a case study in dogged tenacity and a willingness to keep on going despite myriad setbacks.Forget the dashing Mandalorian. Do you remember Starwave? Infoseek? Go? Daily Blast? Spoonful.com? Club Penguin? Tapulous? Maker Studios?I’
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