Disney+ Can't Legally Stream Avatar 2 as an Exclusive (Report)

By Klein Felt Posted:
Avatar 2, Disney Plus logo

Avatar: The Way of Water actually cannot exclusively stream on Disney+.

James Cameron's Avatar 2 has been no stranger to treading new territory, inking its name in a number of record books throughout its theatrical run. 

The film is currently the third-highest-grossing film of all time, sitting only behind Avengers: Endgame and the first Avatar. 

This history-making run has led to quite the up-and-down journey when it comes to a streaming release for the Pandoran epic, with a Disney+ debut now officially dated with one Warner Bros-sized caveat. 

Avatar 2's Weird Streaming Circumstances

Avatar Kiri scene

Thanks to a Disney deal to share the streaming rights for 20th Century's theatrical releases with Warner Bros. for movies released up until the end of 2022, Avatar: The Way of Water actually cannot stream exclusively on Disney+.

The James Cameron sequel is officially set to hit both Disney+ and a rival streaming service Max on the same day, Wednesday, June 7.

The Way of Water marks the end of this deal, explaining the reason behind this Disney+ and Max shared release, with the agreement only applying the movies released in theaters before the end of 2022.

The fact Avatar 2 will come to both services on the same day means that, unlike Disney's Marvel, Star Wars, and other major releases, The Way of Water cannot be branded as a Disney+ exclusive, something which is often beneficial from a marketing perspective.

Disney+ previously shared streaming debuts with HBO Max for Ron's Gone Wrong and West Side Story, though these were much smaller releases in comparison to Avatar 2.

As Disney continues to limit which of its mature content comes to Disney+, most past cases of the shared deal have seen movies split between the Disney-owned Hulu and HBO Max, swerving Disney+ altogether, such as when The King's Man came to both services on February 18, 2022.

When 2022's Prey made its streaming premiere it was hosted on Hulu in the US and Disney+ internationally due to the Hulu/Star deal seen in other territories that brings Hulu releases - as well as other content - to Disney+. 

Although Prey also fell under the 20th Century umbrella, the Predator prequel was exempt from the HBO Max deal as it never saw a theatrical run.

Is This the Beginning of a New Era for Disney?

As Hollywood continues its reevaluation of the streaming model after the overspending of the last few years, content walls have started to come down

With the streaming bubble popping and all the studios frantically attempting to cut costs, executives (including Disney CEO Bob Iger) have had to get creative.

Iger recently told shareholders (via Deadline) that as the company aims to get back into the black they "will consider on occasion licensing [product] to third parties."

From the outside, it may look like the ending of this deal gives Disney powers antithetical to what seems to be the new strategy from the House of Mouse and the rest of the industry. 

But that is actually quite the opposite. Now instead of having to share some of these streaming rights (ie Free Guy, Avatar 2, and West Side Story) for no fee at all, Disney can license properties on a case-by-case basis, lining its pockets in doing so. 

The ending of the Fox deal means the dissolution of one last thing tying Disney down in the streaming world. Bob Iger and the studio can now maneuver freely in the marketplace, making any changes to their streaming strategy they see fit. 

Avatar: The Way of Water comes to Disney+ on Wednesday, June 7. 

- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.