Disney+ X Hamilton; Were you in the room where it happened?

Most people know July 4th for the American celebration of Independence Day, however this year there was another reason to celebrate… with Disney+ bringing the award-winning musical Hamilton to the small screen. This in itself is a pretty big deal, and if you’ve watched it you may agree that this isn’t your classic static-cam videoing of a stage production that reminds you of childhood school productions and You’ve Been Framed style clips. Instead the spectacle of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s extraordinary musical has been carried across to the digital screen without losing the impact of any element, from lights to movement to music. The film Director described the film as “edited like the world’s longest Super Bowl half-time spectacular”.

However, beyond just the enjoyment factor, there were some other thoughts going through my head whilst I was sitting on the sofa trying to enjoy Jonathon Groff’s fantastic performance as King George…

Firstly, it’s been a long time since I got to take part in a ‘TV moment’. They rarely happen in the world of TV on demand and streaming subscription services. However, with Hamilton, Disney managed to create such a draw to the service that they saw an uptake in App downloads of over 750,000 globally across the weekend. With this being a mobile only figure, we can assume the actual figure was much higher, and whilst Frozen 2 was also made available that weekend it wasn’t part of the main marketing campaign.

Secondly, what a marketing campaign it was. One of the main deals that most of the streaming services use is a Free Trial Period, giving you a free week,  or longer, when you sign up to be able to try-before-you-buy, or more realistically – try before you forget you’ve signed up and then have to start paying. However, in June this year Disney stopped advertising and offering their Free Trial and instead launched their Hamilton campaign, a different type of user acquisition strategy altogether. Relying on the draw of the West End/ Broadway spectacle to bring in new subscribers.

Thirdly, there was a lot of conversation last year about what Disney+ would bring to the world of subscription services, with many seeing them as the add-on service only, bringing their historical content to Netflix and Amazon Prime’s original content. We’ve already seen them roll out their Star Wars original series The Mandalorian week-by-week rather than dropping the entire series in one go – much to fans’ disappointment. With these moves, it seems Disney aren’t happy to just sit back as the entertainment ‘library’ service and instead are bringing more innovation into a category they have only just joined.

Overall, whilst I have given Hamilton a standing ovation every time I have been to see it live, Disney also deserves a round of applause for this bit of zagging, in a time of zigging.

  • For deciding to go against industry dogma and remove the industry norm when it comes to user acquisition
  • For doing a zag in a difficult time while everyone else was firmly a zig; bringing forward a piece of key content from October to July in response to the global pandemic and a realisation of situational change
  • And for allowing me to watch Hamilton as many times as I want, whenever I want.

By: Sam Barton

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