With the streaming business going through a stage of colsoldiation as the reality of there being too many streaming services on the market for consumers to subscribe to and only so much money to go around.

Disney has been in a unique situation in the United States for the past five years, running two separate streaming services, Disney+ and Hulu. Due to Comcast owning a third of Hulu, Disney+ wasn’t fully able to take advantage of its general entertainment studios like ABC and 20th Television. This split Disney’s output into two, resulting in Disney+ being the family-friendly service and Hulu the general streamer.

Internationally, things work a little differently. In 2021, Disney+ added the Star Hub, which contained most of Disney’s general entertainment offerings, including shows like “The Bear,” “Only Murders In The Building,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Adding the general entertainment hub to Disney+ has been a huge success, with executives regularly saying that engagement is higher and churn, aka the number of people who unsubscribe, is far lower in countries with the Star hub.

While in Latin America, Disney launched a separate streaming service, Star+, which was a hybrid of Hulu and ESPN+. However, Disney is consolidating that later this year, with Star+ merging into Disney+ across the region.

Later this month, Hulu On Disney+ is set to come out of beta mode in the United States. This will mean every Disney+ subscriber will see the Hulu hub, regardless of whether they are a Hulu subscriber; however, it just won’t let non-subscribers watch Hulu content.

This past week, Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference, where he was asked about his long-term vision for Hulu.

We’ve built a good brand, certainly domestically. That’s clear. They’ve got great content. Recent successes like The Bear only mergers in the building. I don’t know how many of you have had a chance to see Shogun. We’ve — I guess, the third episode hits today. It’s a hell of a series that’s doing quite well on the service. So, we clearly have demonstrated that Hulu is a home for great content. That’s great.

It also gives the ability to put that content into a Disney+ experience without putting the brand at risk. It gives us the wall that we need and it gives us the ability to give the consumer basically choice in terms of parental controls, and that is really working. That data that we’re seeing of the Hulu on Disney+ is really encouraging for us. And when it comes out of beta, it will be a much more integrated experience. And with that comes, obviously, I think, the improved business results, too.

It’s interesting about 50% or more of the new subscribers to Hulu are now bundling with Disney+. And wherever we have a bundled subscriber, we have lower churn. And so Hulu, I think, is long-term fits really well into our global streaming plans. Even though we may not turn it into a global brand because the Star brand is actually working in EMEA and certainly in Latin America and parts of APAC, but the content will basically mirror one another longer term, save, obviously, for localization.

While Bob Iger might be saying they don’t have plans to rebrand the Star hub to Hulu internationally, Disney’s actions seem to indicate something different. Just this week, the Hulu logo started appearing on some shows like “Futurama” and “Only Murders In The Building” on Disney+ outside the US.

There is also the impending deal with Reliance and Viacom 18, who are joining Disney in a joint venture to run Star India. The Star brand was acquired by Disney from 20th Century Fox in 2019, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Disney eventually shift the brand away from Star to Hulu, which would help reduce costs in marketing.

One of the advantages that the Star and Hulu brand give Disney, is the ablility to seperate the family friendly content from the general entertainment content, protecting Disney’s brand.

At the end of 2023, Disney paid Comcast billions of dollars to buy out their stake in Hulu, however, the process isn’t complete, since a final valuation still has to be agreed, so this might be why Iger is still being coy with the future of Hulu.

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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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