Uber and Lyft paid $400K to firm conducting ‘independent studies’ on Proposition 22

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Ride-hail drivers have held several car caravan protests in front of Uber’s San Francisco headquarters. 


James Martin/CNET

On Election Day, California voters will decide on <a website 22, a contentious ballot measure that decides the <a website of the state's gig workers. As the vote approaches, both sides are making their closing arguments.

The Yes side, backed by companies like Uber and Lyft, is pushing for <a website to be classified as independent contractors, link while the No side is arguing workers should be employees. One of the main points of contention is whether the initiative <a website help or hurt gig workers. That’s where a barrage of studies come in.

Uber, Lyft and the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign have sent emails and messages to voters citing «independent studies,» including one that calculates «hundreds of thousands of jobs» will be lost if Proposition 22 fails. The messages also reference a survey that says drivers wish to remain independent contractors by a «4-to-1» margin.

A popular ride-hail blogger conducted that survey through an informal poll on his website. But many of the other studies referenced by the campaign were financed by Uber, Lyft and the other companies that will benefit if Proposition 22 passes. Berkeley Research Group, which conducted the study on job loss, has received more than $411,000 from the Yes campaign, according to public records filed with California’s secretary of state. Benenson Strategy Group and the University of California, Riverside also conducted research that was funded by Uber and Lyft, respectively. 

The No campaign has also referenced studies in its messaging, though a spokesman for the campaign said it didn’t commission any of that research.

The torrent of studies come amid a heated campaign over Proposition 22, which is backed by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates. The battle over the measure has ramifications beyond California because other states — such as New York, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington — are mulling legislation <a website to California's AB5 law, which requires most gig economy companies to reclassify their workers as employees.

The gig economy companies have poured more than $203 million into their effort to prevent that reclassification in the state, which would add payroll costs and benefits, like health care and a minimum wage requirement. The No campaign, backed by unions and labor groups, has raised $15 million. It’s the most expensive ballot measure campaign in California history

Both sides have reached deep into the political playbook to make their cases. <a website Yes campaign has hired conservative operatives to reportedly dig up dirt on labor activists and paid $85,000 to a firm run by the president of the <a website NAACP, which has endorsed its position. Meanwhile, the No campaign has held driver caravans and protests against the gig economy companies, including one in front of the Uber CEO’s house.

The ride-hailing industry has a long history of funding research that’s favorable to its interests. And studies like those cited by the Yes campaign are common in California politics, said David McCuan, a political science professor at Sonoma State University. He added that it isn’t unusual for campaign organizers to pay consultants with the goal of getting a supportive study. 

«In terms of creating quote-unquote ‘independent studies,’ these are not. These are ‘wink wink nudge nudge’ studies,» McCuan said. «Campaigns are always loosely affiliated with allies who find sympathetic research.»

The Yes campaign has leaned on a Berkeley Research Group study that says at least 80% of driver jobs would disappear if gig economy companies were forced to classify workers as employees. Researchers used confidential and proprietary data from the companies, the firm says in its report, which was released in May. Over the past year, the firm has received 28 separate payments from the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign, according to public records, and it’s authored two studies on gig worker reclassification.

Berkeley Research Group, which isn’t affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley, declined to comment. Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Postmates didn’t return requests for comment. Instacart referred CNET to the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign. A spokesman for the Yes campaign declined to comment on the payments to Berkeley Research Group but directed CNET to a passage in the report that says the findings are «the result of objective analysis.»

Mike Roth, a spokesman for the No campaign, said, «Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash have taken a shine to buying themselves rigged ‘studies’ to make their case. The app companies can spend all the money they want on bogus data, but they can’t change the truth.»

The No campaign tends to point to various studies that calculate drivers’ earnings as higher when they’re classified as employees. Some of these reports were conducted by economists at the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. 

A paper released by the Institute earlier this month concludes that most drivers in California make less than minimum wage. If reclassified as employees, the study estimates, driver earnings would increase by about 30% and gig economy companies would still need to use part-time workers during high-demand peak hours. 

The paper’s author, Michael Reich, said Berkeley Research Group’s study is flawed because it doesn’t incorporate those fluctuations in demand. 

«Their conclusions of huge job losses disappear once these errors are corrected,» Reich said.

Earlier this week, the Yes campaign issued a press release saying, «independent surveys show groundswell of support among drivers for Prop 22.» The release linked to three surveys by Harry Campbell, a popular Los Angeles-based ride-hail driver and blogger known as the Rideshare Guy. The surveys were conducted in November 2019, May 2020 and October 2020

Campbell’s surveys are done through a nonscientific poll on his blog, which asks drivers from across the country about being gig workers. He says he reaches out to thousands of drivers through his email list and usually a few hundred respond. The October 2020 survey, for example, received 609 responses. Campbell’s surveys rely on driver honesty, but they don’t necessarily guarantee a representative sample or truthful answers. California public radio station KQED noted in a report that some of the respondents might not even be actual drivers.  

The Yes campaign hasn’t given Campbell any money or in-kind pay, though he does receive commissions from Uber for signing up new Uber Eats drivers through his blog. He said those payments account for less than 3% of the blog’s gross revenue.

Campbell said he believes his surveys accurately reflect driver sentiment but that he was still surprised to see them being used by the Yes campaign.

«It is a bit strange to see our surveys referenced in Uber and Lyft’s propaganda,» Campbell said. «Personally though, I voted no on 22 out of principal — I don’t think these companies have shown a history of having driver’s best interests at heart.»

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CONMEBOLSudamericana Summaries

Apr 21 (OPTA) — Summaries for the CONMEBOLSudamericana on Tuesday (start times are EST) Group Stage ………………………………………………………..
Metropolitanos (2) 2 Scorers: A. Bahachille 9, M. Bustillo 20 Yellow card: Bahachille 29, Pabón 91 Subs used: Hernández 58 (Moreno), Pavone 70 (Bahachille), Soto 70 (Martell), Rosa 86 (Larotonda), Antón 86 (Bustillo) Melgar (1) 3 Scorers: B. Cuesta 45+5, L. Iberico 53, J.

Vidales 88 Yellow card: Iberico 49 Missed penalty: B. Cuesta 5 Subs used: Lazo 46 (Deneumostier), Vidales 79 (Cuesta), Quevedo 86 (Bordacahar), Oncoy 91 (Sánchez) Referee: Carlos Mario Herrera Bernal ………………………………………………………..
Atlético GO (0) 0 Yellow card: João Paulo 67, Zé Roberto 74, Roberson 75, Nathan Silva 90, Roberson 94 (2nd) Subs used: Arthur Gomes 64 (Danilo Gomes), Roberson 75 (Zé Roberto) Newell’s Old Boys (0) 0 Yellow card: Sforza 50, Llano 80 Subs used: Llano 61 (Rodríguez), Scocco 61 (Cingolani), Nadalín 73 (Pérez), Giani 73 (Marcioni), Sordo 85 (Cacciabue) Referee: Gustavo Tejera ………………………………………………………..

Aucas (0) 0 Red card: Cuero 77 Yellow card: Quiñónez 59 Subs used: Ordóñez 68 (Mina), Mejía 83 (Quiñónez), Briones 83 (Cano) Athletico Paranaense (1) 1 Scorers: Erick 38 Yellow card: Nikão 47, Fernando Canesin 52, Pedro Henrique 55 Subs used: Matheus Babi 68 (Renato Kayzer), Vitinho 68 (Fernando Canesin), Aguilar 69 (Christian), Khellven 76 (Erick), González 91 (Nikão) Referee: Piero Maza Gomez ………………………………………………………..

12 de Octubre (0) 1 Scorers: P. Velázquez 69 Yellow card: Marabel 61, Ríos 84 Subs used: David Mendieta Alfonso 58 (Salinas), Ríos 59 (Cáceres), Marabel 59 (Núñez), David Mendieta Chávez 77 (Velázquez), Ojeda 87 (Shuartzman) Rosario Central (0) 0 Yellow card: Torrent 39, Laso 46 Subs used: Lo Celso 68 (Luciano Ismael Ferreyra), Blanco 68 (Ávila), Marinelli 76 (Zabala), zbigz Martínez 76 (Gamba) Referee: Juan Soto Arévalo ………………………………………………………..

Wednesday, April 21 fixtures (EST/GMT) Ceará v Jorge Wilstermann (1815/2215) San Lorenzo v Huachipato (1815/2215) Torque v Bahia (2030/0030) Guabirá v Independiente (2030/0030) Thursday, April 22 fixtures (EST/GMT) Talleres de Córdoba v Emelec (1500/1900) Bolívar v Arsenal (1815/2215) RB Bragantino v Deportes Tolima (1815/2215) Aragua v Lanús (1815/2215) Grêmio v La Equidad (1815/2215) River Plate v Corinthians (2030/0030) Libertad v Palestino (2030/0030) Peñarol v Sport Huancayo (2030/0030)

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Lee Elder Masters honorary starter with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player

Masters patrons returned to Augusta National for the first time in two years on Thursday for the 85th edition of golf’s most prestigious tournament.

With last year’s edition postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, then subsequently taking place in November without fans, it was a welcome sight to see them back at the famous old course in Georgia — all wearing face masks.

Around 10,000 fans were expected on day one, with Augusta running at around a quarter capacity due to coronavirus restrictions.

Legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player welcomed a very special guest on the first tee as 86-year-old Lee Elder, the first black man ever to play at the Masters back in 1975, joined them as an honorary starter. 

Lee Elder (left) joins Gary Player (centre) and Jack Nicklaus (right) on the first tee at Augusta

Lee Elder (left) joins Gary Player (centre) and Jack Nicklaus (right) on the first tee at Augusta

Lee Elder (left) joins Gary Player (centre) and Jack Nicklaus (right) on the first tee at Augusta

Patrons gather at Augusta National ahead of the first day's play at the 85th Masters

Patrons gather at Augusta National ahead of the first day's play at the 85th Masters

Patrons gather at Augusta National ahead of the first day’s play at the 85th Masters

Fans were all wearing face masks with Covid restrictions still in place for the tournament

Fans were all wearing face masks with Covid restrictions still in place for the tournament

Fans were all wearing face masks with Covid restrictions still in place for the tournament

Now, the famous competition has finally started to confront its uncomfortable and racially tainted past.

Elder was a pioneer in men’s golf after Augusta National changed its ways in 1975 and finally permitted black athletes, in a move which was greeted with fury and hostility.

Prior to Elder’s participation, the Masters tournament permitted only caddies of the golfers to be black as the sport stuck to its rigid and dated ways.

Elder, now 86, was subjected to a torrent of abuse after qualifying for the tournament in 1975 and had to rent two houses to stay in during the competition, switching between each at random in order to confuse his antagonisers and reduce fears over his safety.

Lee Elder watches his shot playing as the first black man ever at The Masters in 1975

Lee Elder watches his shot playing as the first black man ever at The Masters in 1975

Lee Elder watches his shot playing as the first black man ever at The Masters in 1975

In his maiden appearance, Elder shot 74 and 78, missing the cut as a result. 

He would go on to play in the tournament five other times, with his best finish a T-17 on the leaderboard in 1979. 

Though he came first, Elder was not actually the first black golfer to qualify for the Masters. 

Charlie Sifford won two recognised PGA Tour events in the sixties, but was shamefully refused entry to the Masters because ‘he didn’t meet the qualifications’. 

Speaking back in November after receiving his invite to become an honorary starter, Elder said: ‘The opportunity to earn an invitation to the Masters and stand at that first tee was my dream, and to have it come true in 1975 remains one of the greatest highlights of my career and life.

‘So to be invited back to the first tee one more time to join Jack and Gary for next year’s Masters means the world to me.’

Elder's appearance was a step in the right direction for the Masters after a racially-tainted past

Elder's appearance was a step in the right direction for the Masters after a racially-tainted past

Elder’s appearance was a step in the right direction for the Masters after a racially-tainted past

Teeing off alongside Elder, 80-year-old Nicklaus still stands as the most decorated name in golf history.

The ‘Golden Bear’ has more majors to his name than anybody else, with 18 victories in total and kickasstorrent an unrivaled six victories at the Masters.

South African star Player has three wins at the Masters, and ended his storied career in golf with nine majors to his name.  

With the formalities completed, American Michael Thompson got the tournament proper under way alongside compatriot Hudson Swafford.

Thompson dropped a shot on the first but bounced back immediately to birdie the par-five second, while Swafford’s birdie on the same hole took him into the early lead on one under.

Former champion Sandy Lyle began his 37th consecutive Masters appearance with a par on the first.

South African legend Gary Players tees off at the first to get the 85th edition under way

South African legend Gary Players tees off at the first to get the 85th edition under way

South African legend Gary Players tees off at the first to get the 85th edition under way

Jack Nicklaus - golf's most-decorated player - tees off on the first hole at Augusta

Jack Nicklaus - golf's most-decorated player - tees off on the first hole at Augusta

Jack Nicklaus — golf’s most-decorated player — tees off on the first hole at Augusta


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Explicit photos of OnlyFans users, including Bella Thorne are 'leaked'

OnlyFans has denied it has been hacked after explicit photos of hundreds of performers, including Bella Thorne, were reportedly been leaked online by hackers.  

‘OnlyFans has not been hacked. Any reports of a security breach are false. There is a group of people purchasing, compiling and then illegally hosting content,’ a spokesperson said. 

‘We have sent them a cease and desist letter and filed a WIPO Complaint against the registrant. The registrant has not responded to the Complaint and we are pursuing further legal action.’ 

According to BackChannel, a security company that studies the behavior of cybercriminals, a link to a Google Drive folder was ‘shared on a low-tier hacker forum by a threat actor known for collecting and exchanging sexually explicit material’ last month. 

BackChannel says the folder contains videos and pictures stolen from hundreds of OnlyFans creators.

‘In our effort to notify all users and spread awareness of the activity, BackChannel is notifying impacted users, the cloud services provider, and other concerned parties threatened by this security incident,’ BackChannel wrote in a online.  

Hundreds of OnlyFans creators, including Bella Thorne (pictured), have been hacked by cybercriminals who posted explicit images online

Hundreds of OnlyFans creators, including Bella Thorne (pictured), have been hacked by cybercriminals who posted explicit images online

Bella Thorne

Bella Thorne

Hundreds of OnlyFans creators, including Bella Thorne (left and porn right), have reportedly been hacked by cybercriminals who posted explicit images online

BackChannel says the folder contains videos and pictures stolen from hundreds of OnlyFans performers (disclosure pictured)

BackChannel says the folder contains videos and pictures stolen from hundreds of OnlyFans performers (disclosure pictured)

BackChannel says the folder contains videos and pictures stolen from hundreds of OnlyFans performers (disclosure pictured)

OnlyFans said ‘content protection is a top priority and OnlyFans has a dedicated anti-piracy team that provides legal DMCA support to issue takedowns on behalf of the creators’. 

‘It is a violation of our Terms of Service to copy, duplicate or record user content, and DMCA law protects creator content being published without proper permissions. This procedure is inclusive of all required notices to move any infringement up to litigation if target websites refuse to comply,’ the company said in the statement. 

‘OnlyFans also notifies the offending domain registrars and hosting services as well as reporting to all major search engines. With a duty to help battle against illegal piracy, OnlyFans is firmly in the fight to protect user content. Takedown success rates have been over 75% across offending image hosting sites, torrent providers, and cyber lockers,’ the statement continued. 

Earlier on Wednesday, BackChannel founder Aaron DeVera told that the Google Drive folder originally contained folders for 279 OnlyFans creators, with one of the folders having over 10GB of videos and photos.  

DeVera said it appears that all of the content was uploaded into the folder in October 2020. 

‘OnlyFans has somewhat weak content controls around their content, and there are plenty of bots and scrapers a legitimate subscriber can use. What makes this unique is that so many users were bundled in one folder,’ DeVera told BleepingComputer.  

His team also believes that it was compiled by more than one person.  

‘This implies that multiple contributors likely added to the cache, or that the uploader sourced the content from multiple leaks. We do not assess that the poster on RaidForums is the original uploader of the Google Drive content,’ DeVera added.

The folder also appears to have been shared from the City College of San Francisco account. BackChannel representatives are currently trying to contact them to remove the entire folder.  

Thorne (pictured) along with Cardi B, Blac Chyna and Tyga are among the celebrities who use the platform

Thorne (pictured) along with Cardi B, Blac Chyna and Tyga are among the celebrities who use the platform

Bella Thorne

Bella Thorne

Thorne (left and right) along with Cardi B, Blac Chyna and Tyga are among the celebrities who use the platform

A DailyMail.com request for comment to Thorne’s reps was not immediately returned. 

OnlyFans is a content subscription service based in London. Creators on the site can earn money from users who subscribe to their content. 

Thorne along with Cardi B, Blac Chyna and Tyga are among the celebrities who use the platform. 

BackChannel created an online tool that allows OnlyFans creators to check to see if their accounts were impacted. 

If a creator’s content is found in the leak, BackChannel recommends users to visit

The incident comes months after Thorne sparked outrage with sex workers when she joined OnlyFans and then raked in $1million on her first day. 

The former Disney star created an OnlyFans profile in August 2020. 

But she angered several people who slammed her for charging $200 for a ‘naked’ photo where she was not actually nude.

Thorne apologized at the time but sex workers blamed her for the subscription platform instating new payment caps and holds.

Content creators said Only Fans subsequently imposed payment caps of $50 on pay-per-view posts from a previous cap of $200, and a $100 cap on tips. 

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Disney Plus reveals new Marvel, Star Wars originals — and a price hike

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Angela Lang/CNET

Disney Plus will raise its US subscription price by $1 in March, bringing it to $8 a month, Disney said Thursday as it unleashed a flood of news about its streaming services at a four-hour event. Disney laid out plans for as many as 20 new Marvel and Star Wars series, promised to let animation fans stream animated fantasy Raya and the Last Dragon the same day it hits theaters (for $30 extra), and revealed a new bundle that packages ad-free Hulu with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus for $19 a month

But the company was silent about its plan for streaming Marvel’s Black Widow and other megabudget movies set to come out next year, like Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals

Typically, Disney movies make their way to Disney Plus about five to eight months after they premiere in theaters. But during the coronavirus pandemic, Disney has been accelerating its films’ turnaround to streaming. Movies like Frozen II, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Pixar’s Onward dropped on Disney Plus months earlier than planned. Then Disney decided its filmed version of Hamilton, Pixar’s Soul and many of its coming live-action movies should skip theaters entirely. Even movies like its live-action Mulan and Raya stream on Disney Plus for an extra fee at the same time they’re in some theaters.

But Disney didn’t provide any guidance about when it would present Marvel movies on Disney Plus, fogginess that suggests the Hollywood giant is still uncertain about aggressively <a website its biggest-budget movies online even as the pandemic continues to keep film fans out of cinema seats. 

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Marvel’s Black Widow movie is set to be released in theaters May 7.


Marvel Entertainment; screenshot by Joal Ryan/CNET

Last week, in a move that shocked many and outraged some, AT&T’s WarnerMedia said all new movies from its Warner Bros. studio — including Wonder Woman 1984Dune and The Matrix 4 — would be available to stream on its own streaming service <a website Max the same day that the flicks hit theaters, at no added cost to subscribers. Disney’s streaming release strategy for Marvel — or, rather, the lack thereof — shows Disney isn’t ready to commit to such a dramatic overhaul of how movies are released. 

Disney’s loyalty to theatrical-release norms, which before the pandemic kept movies exclusively in cinemas for 75 days or more, has been well rewarded in the past. Disney has racked up more top box-office blockbusters in the last five years than any other studio. 

Still, Disney Plus won’t want for new programming. Disney plans to flood Disney Plus and its other streaming services with shows and movies, promising more than 100 new titles every year on Disney Plus and committing to spend $14 billion to $16 billion annually on streaming content across its services within the next four years. (That’s about the same size as Netflix’s budget now.) And $8 billion to $9 billion of Disney’s overall streaming budget will be exclusively for Disney Plus. 

Disney Plus has been the breakout hit of the so-called streaming wars, a period over the last year when seemingly everyone, including Disney, Apple, HBO, NBCUniversal and Discovery, rolled out a streaming service to take on the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Disney Plus has soared to 86.8 million subscribers and outmatched all the rest of the new competitors. On Thursday, the company said it expects to reach 230 million to 260 million members by late 2024. 

By comparison, Netflix, which has been streaming since 2007, expects to surpass 200 million subscribers by the end of this year. 

Star Wars

<a website Wars set loose a torrent of news about new shows and movies Thursday. 

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Ahsoka Tano was brought to life by Rosario Dawson this season on The Mandalorian. The character will get its own spinoff series, with Dawson reprising the role, late next year. 


Lucasfilm/Screenshot by Sean Keane/CNET

On Disney Plus specifically, the service will ramp up two spinoffs from its breakout hit The Mandalorian. Ahsoka will bring Rosario Dawson back to play Ahsoka Tano, a fan-favorite character from the animated The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels shows. Dawson’s Ahsoka, a Jedi wielding two white lightsabers with ninja-like stealth, first appeared in The Mandalorian’s second season. The show will debut on Disney Plus around Christmas of 2021. The other Mandalorian spinoff is called Rangers of the New Republic. Disney provided fewer details about Rangers, but both spinoffs will be set within the timeline of The Mandalorian.

Disney Plus updated fans on its <a website Rogue One spinoff series. The Obi-Wan project will bring Ewan McGregor's Jedi face-to-face again with Hayden Christensen's Darth Vader, with events taking place 10 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. And Andor will be a spy thriller with Diego Luna reprising his Rogue One role of Cassian Andor, set to stream on DIsney Plus in 2022. 

Disney Plus is also developing a Lando series and another show called The Acolyte, a mystery thriller from Leslye Headland, who was behind Russian Doll on Netflix.

In theatrical news, <a website Woman 1984 director <a website Jenkins will direct a new Star Wars: Rogue Squadron movie. Rogue Squadron will be released in theaters during Christmas 2023 and is set to follow pilots across the Star Wars universe.

Read more: Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, Lando… everything Star Wars announced at the epic Disney Plus event

Marvel

We may not know when Marvel’s movies will be arriving on Disney Plus next year, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be alighting on Disney Plus in a rapid-fire series of releases, all in the first half of next year. The first, WandaVision, will land Jan. 15, as was previously announced. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will quickly follow on March 19. And Loki will drop on Disney Plus in May. It’s Marvel fans’ first return to the MCU in more than a year.

On Thursday, Disney released the first footage from all three of the series for fans to pore over. It also released a trailer for What If?…, an alternate-timeline animated series announced last year. The show stars Jeffery Wright as The Watcher, and a slew of returning MCU stars lend their voices.

For future Marvel original series on Disney Plus, the company provided a raft of new details. Tatiana Maslany will be playing the 6-foot-7 lawyer She-Hulk, and Tim Roth and Mark Ruffalo will be a part of the series. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said the Moon Knight will feature «incredible Egyptian iconology» and has director Mohamed Diab attached. Ms. Marvel has recently started filming, allowing Disney Plus to release its first early footage. 

And Disney announced yet more Marvel series to come. Secret Invasion will star Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, bringing him back together with Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos and focusing on shapeshifting Skrulls on Earth. Ironheart will have Dominique Thorne play the young genius, which Feige confirmed will crossover with the larger MCU films. Armor Wars brings back Don Cheadle as War Machine. From The Guardians of the Galaxy world, Disney Plus will offer a James Gunn-created holiday special in late 2022 ahead of the third ensemble film, and I Am Groot is an animated series of shorts featuring the beloved, baby-incarnation of the character.

Read more: WandaVision, Loki, Secret Invasion, Fantastic Four: All the Marvel news from Disney’s event

More on Disney Plus

On Disney Plus itself next year, Disney is switching some of its live-action movies originally intended for the big screen into Disney Plus originals instead, skipping theaters entirely. They include Cruella, which was supposed to hit cinemas in May; Pinocchio, a live-action remake starring Tom Hanks; its Peter Pan reboot; Disenchanted, a sequel to Enchanted that will have Amy Adams reprise her princess role; and Sister Act 3, reviving the comedy franchise about nuns. 

It described more about its series remake of the film Willow, set decades after Ron Howard’s 1988 movie. The show, which will be on Disney Plus in 2022, will have Warwick Davis return in the role of namesake sorcerer, with Crazy Rich Asians director Jon Chu helming the pilot. And the company has plans for a Hocus Pocus 2 and a remake of Three Men and a Baby with Zac Efron. Both are slated to be Disney Plus exclusives, with Three Men set to arrive in 2022. 

In animation, Raya and the Last Dragon will be released on March 5 simultaneously in theaters and on Disney Plus, with its so-called Premier Access model. Under Premiere Access, subscribers to Disney Plus must pay an extra $30 fee to unlock the movie to stream, on top of the standard membership fee for the service. Disney said Raya would be available this way «in most Disney Plus markets.»

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Raya and the Last Dragon will premiere on Disney Plus to stream the same day as it opens in theaters. 


Disney

Raya is an animated fantasy set in a world called Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago until an evil force spurred the dragons to sacrifice themselves to save humanity. In the events of the movie, 500 years have passed and that same evil has returned. Raya, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, is the lone warrior who must track down the legendary last dragon, a self-deprecating beast named Sisu voiced by Awkwafina. 

Disney Animation also has its first series coming to Disney Plus. Baymax returns to San Fransokyo of Big Hero 6, created by the Oscar-winning director of the feature film. The show focuses on its namesake health care bot and will premiere on Disney Plus in early 2022. 

Disney Plus will also have a series of shorts called Zootopia Plus, which will feature the film’s beloved sloth DMV employee, Flash, among other side characters from the movie; it’s set for spring 2022. Disney is partnering with African comic-book and entertainment company Kugali to create the animated sci-fi show Iwájú, which roughly translates to The Future. Set in Lagos, Nigeria, the long-form series explores themes of class, innocence and challenging the status quo. Two Disney heroines will get musical series of their own in 2023: A Princess and the Frog reboot series called Tiana in 2023, and a Moana show that follows the young voyager on wayfinding adventures drawn from traditional oral storytelling of the Pacific Islands.

Pixar will contribute a parade of shorts on Disney Plus, but it will also add the animation studio’s first long-form series, in 2023, called Win or Lose, which follows a coed middle school softball team in the week leading up to its championship game. Each 20-minute episode is told from the perspective of a different character.

These are only a sliver of the programming announcements Disney made Thursday, reflecting that eye-popping $14 billion to $16 billion annual budget that the company is working up to. Disney’s own factsheet on Thursday’s programming news lists all the titles that the company discussed. (It’s 27 pages long.)

Price increases

Disney Plus has succeeded in attracting new subscribers like gangbusters, and it has that enormous budget looming, so the service is raising prices for the first time since it launched about a year ago. The price of a US subscription is going up $1, bringing to a $8 a month, with the annual plan jumping $10, making it $80 a year; both hikes start March 26. In continental Europe, prices are going up by two euros, to €9 a month, and Disney will be making similar price increases in Disney Plus’ other markets. 

«These price increases reflect an increase in the underlying value of the Disney Plus product offering,» Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said Thursday. She added that outside the US, the price increases also reflect that Disney Plus is going to be amped up with content from a new Star general entertainment streaming service that Disney is launching as a section of Disney Plus in February. 

By comparison, Netflix‘s most popular plan costs $14 a month, after the streaming giant <a website its own prices earlier this year. Netflix‘s cheapest tier is $9, and its premium package — which unlocks perks like 4K resolution, HDR image quality and the ability to stream on four devices at the same time (benefits that Disney Plus offers standard) — costs $18 a month. 

Disney also introduced a new tier of its three-part bundle that packages Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu together. Since launch, Disney has offered all three services for $13 a month, but customers only had the option to watch the ad-supported version of Hulu in the bundle. Now that original bundle is rising in cost by $1, to $14 a month starting March 26, and the company is introducing a higher tier of the bundle that removes the ads from Hulu. Coming in January, the package with ad-free Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus will cost $6 more than the basic bundle — equivalent to the cost increase to step up from ad-supported Hulu to ad-free Hulu as stand-alone services. 

Star

Internationally, Disney will launch a new general-entertainment streaming brand called Star. In select places where Disney Plus already exists, it’ll be included as part of Disney Plus, and in Latin America, it’ll launch as a separate streaming service called Star Plus. 

Overall, the Star brand will have thousands of hours of television and movies from Disney’s studios, including Disney Television Studios, FX, 20th Century Studios and 20th Television, plus local programming where available. Star will launch in Europe and katz several other international markets on Feb. 23 as a new tile on Disney Plus, doubling the catalog available to subscribers. In Europe, the service will be priced at €9 per month or €90 per year, with a similar pricing adjustment in the other markets like Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

This Disney Plus/Star combo will continue its global rollout in new markets, beginning with Singapore on Feb. 23, followed by Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea later in 2021. 

But in Latin America, the company will launch Star Plus as a stand-alone streaming service because of an emphasis on the region’s live sporting events. Star in Latin America will have local original productions and an array of live sports from ESPN, including «top soccer leagues, grand slam tennis, and more,» the company said. Star Plus’ stand-alone service will launch in June for about $7.50 per month (or the equivalent in local currencies), or as part of a bundle with Disney Plus for $9 per month (or the local equivalent).

CNET’s Mark Serrels, Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Caitlin Petrakovitz contributed to this report. 

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