Ever since Disney+ launched and became a global phenomenon, there have been questions about the future of Hulu. Especially recently, as we’ve seen more consolation between the different streaming services, such as the merger of Paramount+ with Showtime and the upcoming merge between HBO Max and Discovery+.
Internationally, Disney has already abandoned plans to launch Hulu and, instead, has added all of its general entertainment programming from studios like 20th Century Studios, FX, and ABC into Disney+.
Disney has announced more general entertainment will be coming to Disney+ in the future, with mature shows like “The Orville”, “Love, Victor” and “Daredevil” being added to the streaming service, leading to more speculation about the future
Recently, Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke with Deadline about the plans for the Disney100 celebrations and was asked why Hulu and Disney+ haven’t yet merged:
Right now we don’t have the ability to make them one because we don’t have the rights. We don’t have full ownership of Hulu.
Currently, Comcast still owns 33% of Hulu, and in 2024, Disney and Comcast have an agreement that can either company can request that Comcast’s stake is sold to Disney. Bob Chapek told Variety this past weekend that the deal could be done earlier.
It is possible. But that depends on the propensity for the other partner to be willing to have discussions that would bring that to fruition earlier. We would be absolutely willing to do it.
We’ve been in discussions for quite a long time. This is not a new idea. There have been ongoing, sporadic conversations for a long time.
The idea of the Disney Streaming Bundle of ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu is still going strong within Disney, but things could change, as Bob explained:
Today’s expression of that value is through a bundle. And as you know, the bundle offers tremendous value and benefits to the consumer. But it also offers tremendous value and benefits to our shareholders because the churn is so extraordinarily low. You know the term soft bundle and hard bundle, right? Soft bundle is, hey, buy all three services for the low price of X. The hard bundle is when things become seamless, and without friction. Right now if you want to go from Hulu to ESPN+ to Disney+, you have to go out of one app to another app. In the future, we may have less friction (grins).
Well, the number-one request that we have from Disney plus subscribers is for more general entertainment. We still have a lot of headroom to go from Marvel fans that have yet to subscribe. Lucasfilm fans have a lot of headroom to go, Pixar has a lot of headroom to go. But the number-one opportunity we have is to add more general entertainment. When people watched ‘Dumbo’ with their kids and they put them to bed, and it’s now 7:30 — those same very same people might not want to watch ‘Bambi,’ right? They want to watch something else, something that’s still capital “D” Disney. And the elasticity of that is much more broad than we ever could have imagined, as exhibited through our experience in Europe, on Disney+, where we have a lot more general entertainment on the (platform). The appetite for general entertainment is enormous. We have lots of general entertainment content within the Walt Disney Co. We just don’t have the full ability to use it because of the complicated ownership situation that we have (in Hulu), at least for the next 16 months.
Bob Chapek went onto explain how adding general entertainment has helped Disney+ internationally:
Okay, but the question is, what will they be in the future? If you go to Europe, we don’t have such constraints. You’ll see that Star brand, which is general entertainment, is a six-brand tile on Disney+, How many problems have we had there because of that? (Chapek made a zero symbol with his right hand at this point.)
So, the question would be what would happen when we have full ownership of our general entertainment platform? And the answer to that question is whatever the consumer wants it to do. We will be guided by today’s consumers understanding and desires for the elasticity of Disney as opposed to something that may be in some people’s minds of what Disney was 50 years ago. I will tell you this, it is much more elastic than any of us ever imagined it could be.
In multiple interviews this weekend, Bob Chapek has been very open about the idea that Hulu and Disney+ could potentially merge and ultimately right now, they are restricted because of Comcast still owning a stake. Comcast could be asking for more money than Disney is willing to spend, which looks like Disney could hold off until 2024 to make a big move in the United States.
Ultimately, the words from Bob Chapek at the D23 Expo, seem to indicate that Disney+ is going to go through some major changes in the United States, once the Hulu ownership issue is sorted.
Do you want to see Hulu and Disney+ merge?