Following the historic content purge on Disney+, it seems that the streamer removed one of its most popular shows.
Disney made headlines in recent weeks after it was announced that for the first time ever it would be axing some of its original content on both Disney+ and Hulu.
This was done as a cost-cutting measure for the studio, as the entire entertainment industry reels from years of overspending on streaming content that did ultimately did not yield enough return.
The purge resulted in a number of original titles on the services being removed, with now no legal way to view them. Most were less-popular series and movies, with even a few Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios projects joining the casualties.
A Popular Disney+ Series Gets the Axe
According to new data, Disney removed one of its most popular series in its historic Disney+ content purge.
Research firm Parrot Analytics (via The Wrap) revealed that Lucasfilm's Willow series was in the top 10% of demand/popularity in Q1 2023, all before the show was axed from Disney+.
Parrot Analytics defines "in-demand" as the combined desire, engagement, and viewership for each piece of content on social media platforms, in addition to audience activity on sources like Wikipedia and free streaming sites. From there, demand is then calculated and displayed as a multiple of that title’s demand vs. the demand of the average show over the same length of time.
Among the series that were removed during the content purge, Willow was the most popular, receiving 14.6 times higher demand than the average show.
The more than 30 titles that were pulled off the service accounted for a mere 1.9% of the total demand, accounting for both movies and TV shows. Comparatively, The Mandalorian, which was the most in-demand series on the platform during the same period, amounted to 1.3% of total demand.
Amongst the titles to get the streaming boot, Willow was the only one to occupy the top 10% of in-demand series; however, even with the number it did get, the title did not live up to the high expectations set for it by Disney.
Why Was Willow Removed From Disney+?
Disney and many other studios across the entertainment industry are only just now taking a step back from the exorbitant spending they partook in to populate their particular streaming services, and thus, cuts have to be made.
For some of the projects that did get the boot, it makes sense. They were not getting the viewership numbers or seeing the demand to warrant Disney spending to upkeep their inclusions on the service.
However, Willow seems like an odd choice to also get the axe.
As Parrot Analytics' latest data set describes, the spin-off of Lucasfilm's 1988 fantasy classic, was in demand by audiences, yet Disney opted to pull it less than six months after it debuted. This likely has to do with the lofty expectations for the series from the studio, and it not hitting that mark.
Shortly after Willow Season 1 concluded, Disney (and Lucasfilm) revealed the studio would be working with a renewed focus on successful quality rather than quantity. Along with this new push from the studio came the news that Willow would not be getting a Season 2, and the Warwick Davis series would end after only eight episodes.
While the series earned a respectable 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, it just did not light engulf the world like Lucasfilm and Disney may have thought it would.
Of course, there was always the chance a second season could have been a major hit with word of mouth traveling after the end of the first (akin to what is happening right now with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse's stellar box office run).
But instead, Disney opted to cut the series off where it stood, remove it from the service, and not continue spending money in the business of Willow.
It is a financially safe play, that the studio could potentially regret. Yet given the lack of return the industry is seeing on streaming originals, perhaps Willow being sent off behind the barn may have been for the best.