Walt Disney gave a much-needed boost to Netflix, becoming the first major Hollywood studio to use the video service to bypass premium channels like HBO that traditionally controlled the delivery of movies to TV subscribers.
News of the deal, which enables Netflix to stream Disney's first-run movies to its subscribers, boosted Netflix shares by 14 percent.
Liberty Media Corp, whose Starz group now distributes Disney movies on TV, fell almost 5 percent.
Investors saw the Netflix-Disney deal as an important endorsement of the DVD rental and streaming service, which has been struggling with slowing subscriber growth and higher costs for content distribution.
Disney movies will be available for streaming on Netflix starting in 2016, after its current deal with Liberty Media's pay-TV channel Starz expires. The deal is for both new Disney movies and decades of library content.
"An exclusive deal with Disney differentiates the Netflix content from Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video," said Anthony DiClemente, an analyst with Barclays Capital.
But some analysts worried that Netflix paid too much to get Disney's movies. Tony Wible, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott, estimated in a report that Netflix paid more than $350 million a year for Disney's movies and said "we would not be surprised if (Netflix) would need to raise capital."
By comparison, HBO agreed earlier this year to pay an estimated $200 million annually for its movie licensing deal with 20th Century Fox, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The deal gives Netflix streaming rights to movies from Disney's live-action and animation studios, including those from Pixar, Marvel, and the recently acquired Lucasfilm.
On October 30, Disney announced a $4 billion deal to purchase the famed studio founded by George Lucas, which will now make new episodes in the blockbuster "Star Wars" series.
"This deal brings to our subscribers some of the highest quality, most imaginative family films being made today," Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, said in a statement. "It's a leap forward for Internet television."
Movies from DreamWorks Studios are not included in the deal, as that studio distributes its movies through CBS's Showtime on TV. Disney recently signed a deal to distribute DreamWorks' films theatrically after the studio's deal with Viacom's Paramount Pictures expired.
The deal allows Netflix to stream Disney movies beginning seven to nine months after they appear in theaters.