Disney Facing ‘Resistance’ From Turner in Effort to Get TV Rights of ‘Star Wars’ Films for Streaming Service

It's been nearly one year since Disney announced that it will pull all of its movies from Netflix and launch its own streaming service in late 2019, including both TV shows and movies from Marvel and Star Wars. This week, however, Bloomberg reports that the company is facing troubles with the TV rights to the Star Wars film franchise, dating back to a deal it made with Turner Broadcasting in 2016.


Under that agreement, Turner gained the linear basic cable and companion ad-supported on-demand rights to five of the six Star Wars films released between 1977 and 2005 (The Empire Strikes Back to Revenge of the Sith), as well as the new films that began releasing in 2015 (as of now including The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Last Jedi, and Solo: A Star Wars Story). With these rights, which also includes A New Hope rights inked in a deal with 20th Century Fox, Turner has been airing the Star Wars movies on networks like TNT and TBS, and its deal with Disney grants it the ability to keep doing so until 2024.

Now that Disney is planning its own dedicated streaming service, however, the company wants these rights back so it can be the sole location for users to find and stream the entire Star Wars canon. To do so, Disney has made a "preliminary inquiry" about regaining the rights, but has "met resistance" from Turner, according to people familiar with the matter.

Turner would reportedly want financial considerations and programming to replace the Star Wars films it would lose, but the talks have yet to advance. If Disney doesn't get the rights back, its streaming service would be missing one of the main franchises that many users would be signing up for, although new Star Wars content could appear, such as numerous Star Wars TV shows "specifically" created for the service.

As we get near the launch of Disney's direct-to-consumer app, more of its films have begun disappearing from Netflix, including titles like Finding Dory this month. In regards to Star Wars, Bloomberg reports that Disney's deal with Netflix for recent Star Wars films -- including the currently-streaming Star Wars: The Last Jedi -- will expire "at the end of this year."

Similar to Disney, Apple is on the hunt to fill its own upcoming streaming TV service with an instant catalog of existing shows and potentially even movies. Apple hasn't discussed its streaming service as much as Disney, however, so it's still unclear how it will launch, how much it will be (Disney says its own will be priced "substantially below" Netflix), and when exactly users will be able to watch the first TV shows beyond sometime after March 2019.

At the same time that Disney attempts to negotiate the TV rights to the Star Wars films back into its fold, the company is nearing completion on its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox's entertainment assets, which will provide another influx of content for its streaming service.


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‘Star Wars: Jedi Challenges’ iOS App Updates With ARKit Support for Holochess Mode

When Apple first announced its ARKit developer platform, one of the examples it gave was an image that showed someone playing Dejarik, a holographic board game from the Star Wars universe. The game has been available in an augmented reality experience on the iOS "Star Wars: Jedi Challenges" app [Direct Link], but it required pieces of hardware -- namely the Lenovo Mirage AR headset -- that currently costs $149.99.


This week Disney updated the Jedi Challenges app with ARKit support, removing the requirement of a Lenovo Mirage AR headset and letting anyone with an iPhone or iPad running iOS 11 play Dejarik Holochess for free (via Gizmodo UK). ARKit users are able to access the full Holochess game mode, with 18 levels taking place across six planets and including eight unlockable creatures with unique abilities. Lenovo says that Holochess mode includes around two to three hours of gameplay.
Star Wars: Jedi Challenges adds ARKit compatibility with this update. Users with an Apple device running iOS 11 can now experience the magic of augmented reality directly from their mobile device. Access the full Holochess game mode from Star Wars: Jedi Challenges including 18 levels across 6 planets and 8 unlockable creatures with unique special abilities.
Last month, Sensor Tower reported that iPhone and iPad owners worldwide have downloaded more than 13 million ARKit-only apps since the platform launched in September 2017. Games remain the dominant category for ARKit-only apps -- defined as "expressly using" Apple's framework, unlike Jedi Challenges -- having grown from representing 35 percent of downloads one month after iOS 11's launch, to 47 percent today.

Back in January, Apptopia claimed that developer use of ARKit had slowed down since it debuted in September, with growth steadily declining since the official launch. Apptopia's numbers suggested that 300 ARKit-related apps launched in September, around 200 came out in October, and 156 were released in November. The number climbed above 160 for December, but developers are said to still be figuring out the best use cases for augmented reality in general, with many ARKit-enabled apps designated as either games with AR modes attached onto them, entertainment and photo apps, or utilities.

Although ARKit has removed the need for a headset in Holochess mode, anyone who wants to partake in Star Wars: Jedi Challenge's Lightsaber Battles and Strategic Combat games will still need the Mirage headset. While Jedi Challenges is also available for Android smartphones, support for Google's ARCore has not yet been announced.


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Air-Gapped MacBook Air Helped Rian Johnson Avoid Leaks When Writing ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Writer/director Rian Johnson did an interview with The Wall Street Journal this week, discussing his favorite tech essentials that he uses both casually and professionally, including for the creation of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In regards to the scripting process of The Last Jedi, Johnson said that he wrote the entire film on an air-gapped MacBook Air.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi official title via starwars.com

An air-gapped computer is never connected to the internet, ensuring that the device is completely isolated from other, potentially non-secure networks. Johnson explained that this prevented secrets within The Last Jedi's script from ever getting out, and he "used it for nothing except writing the script," although he didn't specify which model of Apple's MacBook Air he used.
I typed Episode VIII out on a MacBook Air. For security it was “air-gapped”—never connected to the internet. I carried it around and used it for nothing except writing the script. I kept it in a safe at Pinewood Studios. I think my producer was constantly horrified I would leave it in a coffee shop.
Johnson also mentioned playing iOS game Desert Golfing on his iPhone X, admitting he's played "more than 1,500 holes" in the game. Other tech discussed included a Leica M6 35mm film camera used on The Last Jedi, his Omega Speedmaster Pro wrist watch used to time out moments on the set, and "The History of Rome" podcast he listened to when writing the movie.

Ahead of the release of The Last Jedi, Apple hosted free Star Wars-themed workshops at select Apple retail stores. The sessions taught participants how to make movie trailers and code droids in celebration of Force Friday II, the day that new Star Wars toys launched for characters, stories, and locations from The Last Jedi. Earlier in the summer, animator and illustrator Wahyu Ichwandardi shared an Apple/Star Wars project of his own when he recreated the entire first trailer for The Last Jedi on a vintage Apple IIc from 1984.


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HEX and Disney Release Official Star Wars Cases for Latest iPhones Ahead of ‘The Last Jedi’ Premiere

Disney and accessory maker HEX have teamed up to release official Star Wars cases for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, ahead of the premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi on December 15.


The genuine leather cases are debossed with Star Wars art and iconic characters such as Darth Vader, R2-D2, and stormtroopers, with styles including snap-on cases, folio wallets, and zipper wallets with slots for cards, IDs, and cash.

The cases are available now on HEX's website and at select retailers for between $49.95 and $69.95 each in the United States.


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Review: If You’re a Star Wars Superfan, You Need Sphero’s BB-9E and R2-D2

Robotics company Sphero skyrocketed to popularity in 2015 with the release of BB-8, a miniature iPhone-controlled toy droid modeled after the BB-8 character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

As the release of the The Last Jedi approaches this December, Sphero has introduced two new Star Wars-themed robotic toys, BB-9E and R2-D2.


R2-D2 is a well-known classic droid that's starred in Star Wars movies since the original trilogy in the 1970s, while BB-9E, an Astromech droid that serves in the First Order (aka evil BB-8), is a newcomer that will appear in The Last Jedi.


Like BB-8, both of Sphero's new droids are exquisitely accurate in design compared to the movie versions, and they come to life when paired with the Sphero app.

Design


BB-9E shares a design with BB-8, and BB-8 was based on Sphero's original robotic ball technology. BB-9E's body is a plastic sphere that houses a motor, a gyroscope that keeps BB-9E upright, counterweights for balance, internal wheels, magnets, and other electronic components.


BB-9E's head attaches to the ball-shaped body using magnets, and a set of wheels underneath the head to allow it to move in around in stay in place on the body while BB-9E is in motion. Instead of a round head like BB-8, BB-9E has a flatter head that fits in better with the First Order aesthetic.


Size wise, BB-9E fits in the palm of a hand, and if you own BB-8, BB-9E is the same size. In contrast to BB-8's white and orange design, BB-9E is black with gray accents and red and blue lights (on the head) when in operation. BB-9E is made from a durable plastic that holds up to rough use -- even when the droid is slammed into walls or other obstacles, it comes away unscathed.
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Sphero Launches New R2-Q5 iPhone-Controlled Star Wars Droid

Following the launch of BB-8 in 2015, and R2-D2 and BB-9E last month, Sphero has introduced an all-new iPhone-controlled droid ahead of New York Comic-Con, which begins today. This one is R2-Q5 and is the Imperial counterpart to R2-D2, with a glossy black finish and matte gold trimmings. R2-Q5 first appeared in Return of the Jedi.


Similar to Sphero's R2-D2 droid, R2-Q5 has functional lights, a rotating dome, retractable third foot, on-board speakers, and can be piloted manually via the same Sphero app that controls the other Star Wars droids, or patrol on its own. The app has augmented reality features that place R2-Q5 in settings within the Star Wars universe, including the Death Star. You can watch Star Wars movies with the droid and have it react to certain moments within the film as well.
R2-Q5™ is an Imperial astromech droid from a galaxy far, far away.... Control it with your smart device or keep this nefarious Droid in top shape with augmented reality training. R2-Q5’s signature front and rear LED lights are fully functional, and an integrated speaker means all sounds come right from the droid itself. Watch R2-Q5 interact with other Star Wars™ App-enabled Droids by Sphero, and view films from the Star Wars saga with R2-Q5 reacting by your side. This special droid has been brought to life thanks to Sphero technology.
Sphero is planning R2-Q5 as a much more exclusive model than its previous droids, with only 100 on sale at the company's New York Comic-Con booth today. After that, the droid will debut on Best Buy's site and in stores on November 5 for $199.99. Pre-orders are available now, and the "limited edition" droid is expected to see limited availability throughout the holidays, so once they disappear from Best Buy they'll be gone for good.


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Disney Confirms Upcoming Streaming Service Will Include Marvel and Star Wars Films

In early August, Disney revealed that it plans to pull all of its movies from Netflix and launch its own streaming service in 2019. Users were understandably curious as to which Disney-owned brands that might include, particularly once Disney CEO Bob Iger referenced the company's interest in potentially branching off Marvel and Star Wars into their own, separate streaming services.

Today, Iger cleared up any confusion by confirming Marvel and Star Wars films will be available on the upcoming Disney-branded streaming app (via Deadline). Current films in these franchises on Netflix -- like Doctor Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story -- will be removed from Netflix and arrive on the Disney platform when it launches in 2019. It's still unclear at what point between now and 2019 Disney will begin removing these films from Netflix.


Last month Reuters reported that Netflix was in "active discussions" with Disney to keep Marvel and Star Wars films on the popular streaming platform, but it appears those talks have now fallen through.
Films from Marvel and Star Wars that now go to Netflix will move to Disney’s planned ad-free direct-to-consumer streaming service, CEO Bob Iger said today at an investor gathering.

“We’re going to launch big, and we’re going to launch hot” by late 2019, he told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2017 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference.
The outcome for Marvel and Star Wars TV shows was not specified, but Iger said that the Disney streaming app "will have the entire output of the studio — animation, live action and Disney including Pixar, Star Wars and all of the Marvel films,” potentially including television content. Right now, users can watch Marvel and Star Wars TV shows on Netflix including Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Last month Iger confirmed that Disney "has no plans" to remove any of the Netflix-owned and created Marvel series from the service, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher. These original Netflix shows were formed under a separate deal from the one created in 2012, meaning they'll continue to be Netflix original shows for the forseeable future. Iger said Disney is even potentially willing to license even more Marvel characters for future shows.

On the Disney branded side of things, the app will include four or five "mostly live action" original movies, as well as four or five original Disney TV shows. Besides the new content, the service will of course also house the company's back catalogue, spanning nearly 500 films, 7,000 episodes of television, and "thousands" of short films. Neither Disney nor Iger has mentioned the subscription cost for the service yet, but the CEO said a price will be coming "in the months ahead."


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