It appears someone—Disney, Amazon, Google Play or Apple—is trying to squeeze more money out of its Star Wars Rebels Season Pass holders, and the fans are angry. Hungry rancor angry. Let the Wookie win angry. Cast them into the Sarlacc angry. You get the idea.
When Season Two of Disney’s wildly popular animated series Star Wars Rebels went on instant video sale via third-party retailers like Amazon.com in October 2015, you could pick the series season pass up for $24.99—a $5 increase from Season One’s season pass. You might already be thinking “ouch—that’s a hefty price tag for a single season.” But, you know—it’s Rebels, arguably the best thing to happen to the Star Wars universe since the original series. (Um…Clone Wars? -Ed) It’s layered, complicated, creative, emotionally gripping. The show follows orphan Ezra Bridger and a diverse band of determined friends as they make connections, forming the best kind of family—the kind you choose—while they sow the seeds of rebellion. Even better: for those of us Star Wars fans old and foolish enough to have spawned, it’s family friendly to a fairly young age. Rebels is a rare gem, settling everyone in the house motionless on the couch for a full twenty minutes.
Fine. In the light of all that– $25. Okay. $25 for approximately thirteen twenty-minute episodes, plus the 45 minute season opener.
Oh, wait. As with Season One, the 45 minute season openers—really Episode One for each season; you’re not fooling anyone by not labeling them as such—aren’t included, even though they’re an integral part of the season storyline. They have their own weird “season” label on Amazon, and they’re an extra $6-$8 each.
I don’t think you’re struggling here, Disney, but if you really need another $8 of my money to keep producing this gold, fine. Rewatchability is high. I believe in paying for entertainment.
So you pay $6 for the first episode and then put down your $25 for the HD version of the rest of the season, secure in the belief that you’ve purchased at least a few months of family-friendly entertainment for those nights when it’s all anyone can do to eat pizza on the couch. All is well. Your kids walk around humming the music and pretending to pilot the Ghost. Season Two breaks for a month midway through December with Episode 9, Legacy, wherein our plucky and sometimes troublingly angry hero, Ezra, discovers the true fate of his parents. We’re treated to a lovely trailer about the second half of Season Two in the meantime (notice how it’s labeled Season Two Mid Season Trailer?) and it’s everything we hoped for. A little over a month later we pick back up with Episode 10 bringing us A Princess on Lothal. Rebels is back, friends!
Except the next week, Episode 11 isn’t listed as available for viewing on your supposed Season Pass. What gives? We’re halfway through Season Two and everyone knows it. Amazon has a new category listed—Season 301, Season 200 being the 45 minute special not included with the Season Pass and Season 201 being, well, season two; the way Amazon splits Rebels into composite parts is confusing, but in the past at least it’s included the whole season minus the opener, as with Season One (Season 101 on Amazon, available for $19.99 in its entirety.) Did you miss something major? Has Season Three begun?
Nope. Season 301 is nothing more than the second half of Season Two, split so that you, the streaming viewer, are forced to pay for it twice, after having been promised a Season Pass to the entire season. Another $19.99 if you’d like to continue following along with Ezra and co., thank you very much.
This is weird for a few reasons—one, what kind of whacky pricing model is this? People who get rid of cable aren’t looking to spend a lot of money on purchasing shows; two—if you’re going to split it into two pieces, at least do it at the natural break in the show so that people aren’t so confused—but mostly it feels like a cheap bait and switch. And the fan base, devoted though it is, isn’t standing for it.
Star Wars Rebels used to have a nearly perfect rating on Amazon.com. In the week since people realized their purchased Season Pass doesn’t include the second half of this season, that rating has plummeted due to the fans voicing their displeasure via one-star reviews. Almost all of them hasten to mention the quality of the show is very high, but the pricing model feels like a rip off, a con. This is negative publicity of the kind that could potentially hurt the show, no matter whose fault this is—Amazon, Google Play, Apple, or Disney. With or without Disney’s tacit approval, splitting the show up to try to force people to pay twice for a promised product is wrong. Remember, the show isn’t in Season Three on air—it’s still very much labeled as a Season Two storyline.
Star Wars fans are dedicated viewers with deep pockets, but we don’t deserve to be taken advantage of. It’s true that we’ll buy nearly anything—Star Wars themed soup, anyone?—but the real question in my mind revolves around intent. Who’s driving this pricing model—Disney or the third-party retailers? Is Disney so confident they’ve set the hook that we’ll pay for the series twice without complaint? Or are they trying to see how far they can push the line before we push back?
Is it even possible that this is a mistake? If not, this is a depressing mirroring of our current conversations about a fracturing social structure and wealth. One more massive, wealthy corporation pricing as high as it can, as fast as it can, for as little as it can– promised merchandise delivery be damned.
Some fans took to Twitter to confront Disney about it, and the response, though brief, leaves room for hope:
So far there’s no further word from Disney on whether or not this is intended, but it’s worth a call to your chosen Season Pass retailer to see if they’ll work with you. Some fans reported being able to talk Amazon customer service into granting account credit for the cost of the second half of Season Two, but it appears you have to be determined—one person was offered a measly $5 back and told she’d still have to purchase Season 301 (remember, still just Season Two) if she wanted to watch the show she’d already been promised access to. She persisted, and in calling a second time did get a credit for the full amount—“I got a fellow nerd,” she told me. “he said “May the force be with you,” instead of goodbye.”
At least we’ve still got each other, geeks.
Oh, and Disney? Please: