Why ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Isn’t Airing But ‘Doctor Strange’ Is


Spider-Man: No Way Home hit theaters in December, laying the groundwork for Marvel fans to then embark on Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in May. But even though the latest Spider-Man movie predated Strange in theaters by nearly five months, Doctor Strange started streaming on Disney Plus this week, long before No Way Home was available to stream anywhere.

To add to the confusion, Spider-Man: No Coming Home isn’t coming to Disney Plus, even though actor Tom Holland’s Spider-Man regularly appears in Disney’s Marvel films and Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed Strange in both films.

When and where is Doctor Strange available to stream?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness hit Disney Earlier on Wednesday. It is available to stream at no additional cost to all subscribers.

That’s about 47 days after its wide theatrical release, much faster than the last two Marvel movies reached Disney Plus. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was in theaters for 70 days before streaming on Disney Plus; for Eternals, it was 68 days.

If Doctor Strange had also adhered to this timeline, it would have become available on Disney Plus around mid-July. But with this film, Disney is moving closer to the standards of other major studios, which have largely focused on giving films a window of theatrical exclusivity lasting around 45 days.

When and where will Spider-Man: No Way Home air?

No Way Home will air on Starz starting July 15.

Even though Spider-Man is part of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is largely a Disney-created juggernaut, Sony is actually the studio behind No Way Home. And Sony has a completely different approach to streaming its movies.

Sony has struck a deal to have its 2021 films premiere on premium cable network Starz, where they can be viewed on its traditional channels as well as its streaming app. So Starz will begin streaming No Way Home on July 15.

Why do these streaming release dates make no sense?

Both films may be part of the MCU, but the release strategies for these films couldn’t be more different.

The main reason for the differences is that the Marvel characters on the film are split between two different studios, Disney-owned Marvel Studios and Sony. Spider-Man, as a character, derives from Marvel, but Disney’s Marvel has a complicated licensing deal with Sony for characters from the Spider-Man comics.

All standalone films in the Spider-Man universe are made and distributed by Sony. Marvel takes care of the rest.

Each company can arrange to “borrow” the characters (and the actors who play them) from the other to be part of their own MCU films. That’s why Holland regularly appears in Disney’s Avengers films, and Cumberbatch played Doctor Strange not only in Sony’s No Way Home, but also in Disney’s Multiverse of Madness. This is also why you box stream movies on Disney Plus featuring Holland as Spider-Man – but you can not stream one of the Spider-Man specific movies there.

On top of that, Disney and Sony have drastically different streaming strategies.

Disney has its own streaming service; Sony does not. Disney has been flexible during the pandemic, constantly changing when (and if) movies went to theaters and how long they stayed there before airing. Sony and Starz, on the other hand, were locked into a deal struck years ago, before the pandemic accelerated how quickly new movies hit a streaming service.

Disney only launched Disney Plus about four months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Almost immediately, Disney reinvented the service as an outlet for releasing great new movies. Some Disney movies — usually mid-budget live-action movies and Pixar movies like Luca and Soul — skipped theaters altogether and were available to stream on Disney Plus at no extra cost. For bigger movies, Disney Plus introduced its Premier Access model to sell streaming access to new movies on the big screen for an additional $30.

Then, as the company reopened last year, Disney reintroduced theatrical exclusives. But Disney’s “windows” — the period of time after a movie opens in theaters but before it begins streaming — have been all over the map. Encanto spent a month in theaters before airing. For Marvel Eternals, it was two. West Side Story – Steven Spielberg’s reimagining of the musical – hit Disney Plus about three months after it premiered exclusively in theaters.

Now, with Doctor Strange on Disney Plus after 47 days, Disney is heading towards the new industry standard of giving movies about a month and a half in theatrical exclusives.

But Sony’s streaming approach couldn’t be more different.

Unlike Disney, Sony does not operate its own streaming service. So Sony’s strategy is to license its films to others for television and broadcast, accumulating the revenue from those deals.

Sony and Starz made their deal in 2017, when it was normal for movies to be in theaters exclusively for about 75 to 90 days and keep them from streaming for six to nine months after they hit theaters. Even though the pandemic has upended movie release traditions, Sony’s deal with Starz still upholds those pre-pandemic standards.

That’s why Spider-Man: No Way Home is taking so much longer to start streaming on Starz: its timeline is an artifact of another era of movies.


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