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Disney Plus Premier Access: Everything you need to know

Mulan on Disney Plus Premier Access
"Mulan" is the first movie to hit the "Premier Access" side of Disney Plus. (Image credit: WhatToWatch.com)

First there was Disney Plus. Now, there's Disney+ Premier Access. The streaming service has come a long way since its launch in November 2019, garnering some 60.5 million paid subscribers in just nine months.

And it's just getting started.

Meanwhile, the global pandemic of 2020 shook up the entire entertainment industry. Not only were films in production forced to shut down, but films already slated for release were faced with a an existential question: Postpone indefinitely until theaters reopen? Or find an alternative (and less lucrative) avenue for release.

The answer to that problem has been "why not both?" Some movies are holding out for the big screen. Others have shifted strategies and are going digital first, like Hamilton, Trolls World Tour and Artemis Fowl.

And with the live-action remake of Mulan, Disney+ is ushering in the next step for its fledgling service — Premier Access. It's simultaneously simple, and confusing. (Welcome to the wonderful world of streaming entertainment, folks.)

We're here to straighten that out for you, though. Here's everything you need to know about Disney Plus Premier Access.

What is Premier Access?

First off, it's Premier Access, not Premiere Access. Those are two different words with two different meanings — even though they're both in the same ballpark for our purposes, and they'll even overlap a bit.

In the case of Disney+, it means a higher level of access — one that will let you watch a piece of content on Disney+, provided that you pay an additional fee for that piece of content. It's not a higher subscription level — just a name for content that floats above everything you get with a normal Disney+ subscription.

Mulan is the first test case for Disney+. You'll need a Disney+ subscription to get in the door, and then you'll need to pay $30 on top of that to watch Mulan when it's released on Sept. 4.

Note that this isn't some higher tier of Disney+ subscription. Paying $30 now for Mulan doesn't get you more movies later.

And this scheme isn't new. It's exactly what ESPN+ (which also is owned by Disney and in fact is using the exact same underlying tech to serve you video) is doing for UFC pay-per-view events. You need an ESPN+ subscription, and then you'll pay separately for each UFC PPV fight you want to see. Same for Mulan, and presumably for other titles down the road.

So Premier Access is early access? 

Pretty much. The way Premier Access (at least initially) is intended to work is that it's a way for Disney to charge more for special content before it hits Disney+ proper. So in this case you'll pay $30 for Mulan.

There's a little wordplay going on here, though. Disney says that "with Premier Access, you can watch Mulan before it's available to all Disney+ subscribers." So take that to mean that at some point Mulan will become available to everyone on Disney+, not just those who paid the $30 for "Premier Access." In that case, "Premier Access" means "early access." How much earlier? We have no idea. 

It's conceivable that Disney could designate a film for Premier Access and never release it to the larger Disney+ audience — sort of a perpetual premium on-demand offering. But Mulan is just the first piece of content, so let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

How do you get Premier Access?

Premier Access is a separate fee, and Disney says you'll be able to pay that toll "on disneyplus.com and select platforms, including Apple, Google, and Roku."

That should mean that you'll be able to pay the $29.99 for Mulan on Disney's website, as well as through Google Play (presumably on Android phones and tablets, as well as on Android TV), on your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV, and on a Roku player or Roku TV.

Will Premier Access always be $30?

That's unknown. Mulan is $30 — OK, it's $29.99. But we could see Disney potentially charging more for something with even more demand.

Do I 'own' Mulan if I pay the $30?

Not really. Disney says you can continue to watch the live-action Mulan for as long and as many times as you want once you've paid the Premier Access toll — "as long as you are an active Disney+ subscriber." 

Note how that neatly covers content that lives on Premier Access as well as if it's released to the general population of Disney+ content. 

But the short version is so long as you're paying for Disney+ and you've already paid the Premier Access fee for a given piece of content, you can watch it.