If you have been keeping an eye on programming for Disney XD, you know there has been a shift away from the network. Many of Disney XD’s original programming will begin to get shifted over to the parent network, Disney Channel. With Disney putting more stock in the long-announced steaming service it could indicate a decreased timetable in their electronic collection. With this shifting is Disney XD’s restructuring the first chess piece to move in the larger picture?
Starting with the recent addition of Gravity Falls reruns on Disney Channel, there has been an increased presence of Disney XD-related shows. Starting in May, the parent network will poach the roster of Disney XD shows. The updated version of Ducktales that premiered in 2017 has quickly become a fairly popular show, averaging over 300,000 viewers per episode according to Neilson, and will be moving to Disney on May 4. Even Disney’s flagship show, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, has announced that it will air Season 4 on both networks. The main indicator of the demise of the network is that new shows scheduled to air on XD are moving to Disney itself. All of the new shows set to premiere in the next few years have been created by those who have worked on Gravity Falls, incorporating the fantasy elements of Alex Hirsch’s insanely popular series. Set to air mid-2018 on Disney Channel, Big City Greens, produced by Rob Renzetti, was originally greenlit by XD back in 2016, is the best indication of a programming shift of the networks. It is unclear the exact reason behind these changes as there has not been an actual quote from either channel, but change is on the horizon.
Disney XD is considerably younger than Disney Channel, premiering in 2009, combining the networks Toon Disney and Jetix. With this younger channel, the reach of XD is only 80,120,000 million households in 2015 which is considerably less than Disney Channel’s 96,206,000. Though this Nielsen study is only from three years ago, there has been a significant uptick by most Americans in cutting the cord and ditching cable. Last year, Variety conducted a study showing that in 2017 22.2 million cable users cut the cord a sharp increase, 33%, of 16.7 million users in 2016. With the way entertainment has been rapidly changing it would be easy to imagine Disney XD merging into the streaming service. By taking popular shows from Disney XD to their e-collection, it would increase interest in the new service.
Disney has long been examining the prospects of their own streaming service, as it saw the success of their Netflix Marvel shows. Disney has announced that they are going to add original content to match their vast library of material, focusing mostly on Star Wars and Marvel properties. However, adding shows from their cable networks would be a simple transition that would likely add more members for the service for fans to continue following their favorite shows. It will be hard to see flagship franchises moving over but other shows moving over from Disney XD’s possible cancelation like Milo Murphy’s Law is possible. Disney’s streaming service will likely become a catchall in the early stages of its existence as it examines what works and what doesn’t.
However, this could just be the result of Disney viewing their lineup and reevaluating what they are airing. There is a visible need for cartoons catering to the older audience as the network currently is dominated by younger audience cartoons and live action sitcoms. From a show aspect, this will be good for the migrating shows as there will be an audience increase given the additional reach of Disney Channel. With the growing audience, this will create a feedback loop giving the shows a bigger budget allowing for better animation. One point of concern is that the move away from the older audience network is that the shows will become a reduced version due to Disney Channel catering to younger audiences. There seems to be some hope that the channel will keep the formatting, as Adam McArthur (Star vs. the Forces of Evil) stated on Twitter the show will stay the same. However, this tweet has been since deleted which opens a lot of questions on the future of the level of quality of the series. It is hard to see any Gravity Falls-related shows operating well under restricted conditions due to age restrictions as the show got pretty dark at some points.
There are many possible outcomes for the network as Disney XD have many shows they have not yet moved. The main shows that point to Disney XD existing in some fashion past this mass exodus are the third-party shows of the network. The main third-party shows are predominantly anime like Pokémon, Yo-Kai Watch, and Beyblade Burst which have not announced they will move from the channel. However, shows can simply switch away from the network in a single announcement due to XD being a subdivision of Disney. The move away from original content will make it hard for the long-term stability of Disney XD and will likely fold as Disney puts its focus elsewhere.
The future of Disney XD has been put in serious doubt in the last few months as the network’s shows have been switching over to the parent network, Disney Channel. Shows that have been greenlit by Disney XD, like Big City Greens, have been picked up by Disney Channel and XD currently has no incoming original shows. This transition could be seen in many different fashions one being that Disney is looking away from cable broadcasting in favor of their streaming service. However, this could just simply be Disney examining the need for an older audience cartoon show to balance out the channel’s sitcoms and younger audience cartoons. What ends up happening to Disney XD is still to be seen but there have been many troubling signals starting since February. The impacts of this programming shift will be seen as early as May when the changes begin to start.