It’s finally happening.  Disney CEO Bob Iger has announced plans to bring together its streaming services in the United States under one app, bringing Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+ content all together to offer subscribers a better experience but it also comes with many business benefits.

The details of how all of this will work are still very much unknown.  Bob Iger was very vague about how Hulu content would be added within Disney+, but there are some key things we know.

  • It will be happening by the end of 2023
  • Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu will still be offered as separate services
  • Hulu content will be available within Disney+
  • More advertising is going to be offered
  • Price rises for Disney+

However, we still know very little about how all of this will work out because the Hulu situation is very complicated. First off, Comcast still owns 33% of Hulu and due to a contract that was put into place when Disney purchased 20th Century Fox, which means Disney or Comcast can force Disney to buy out the 33% stake, for a minimum of around $9 billion.   Bob Iger has said he has had meetings with Comcast over Hulu, but ultimately, the deal hasn’t been finalised, which is why the information has been so vague.

Disney is being open about its plans to consolidate its streaming services, similar to how HBO Max and Discovery+ will merge and how Paramount+ and Showtime have recently done.  It’s setting the tone for the future, which Disney knows will be all about the streaming business as the linear business is declining yearly.

There are many reasons why the merger of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ will make sense.  It will drastically reduce costs for the company.  They can make less content and stretch it out easier, because when you look at all of the content being created across Disney’s studios, they release lots of shows and films.  Publicity costs can be reduced, since they will be only promoting one app.  Bob Iger even mentioned in the quarterly conference call that they’ve been releasing so much content on their streaming platforms, they’ve not been advertising them properly to get the most out of their investment.  That’s in addition to savings that can be made on just running one platform, reduced overheads etc.

The merging of the platforms also will help reduce churn, as subscribers of the Disney Streaming Bundle have been generally less likely to unsubscribe, since there is usually something someone wants to watch on one of the three platforms.

ESPN+ is already available within the Hulu app, so Disney has already begun getting subscribers used to them being together. However, adding ESPN+ into Disney+ should hopefully be something that can happen easier, since they are built on the same tech.  Disney has also already added ESPN content onto Disney+, but with the high costs of sports, it’s likely this will remain a premium add-on or as part of a bundle.

Internationally, Disney+ has had lots of success with the addition of the Star brand, which offers the majority of Hulu Originals and other general entertainment from Disney’s studios like 20th, FX and ABC.  Bob Iger has said that it’s been a huge success and one of the reasons why they want to merge the platforms.

Unfortunately, with the Hulu contract, Disney has never been to share its plans for the future properly, but now with just over six months until 2024, it is starting to let subscribers know what’s going on.  It makes the recent decisions for Disney+ to make more sense, such as moving to the next-day programming for Disney Channel and National Geographic content.  Or why more Disney+ Originals have been added to Hulu and why “A Small Light” and the next Searchlight Pictures film, “Flamin’ Hot”, are being released on both Hulu and Disney+ simultaneously.  Slowly blending together the two platforms.

Disney’s CFO Christine M. McCarthy also revealed during the quarterly results that they are going to be taking an impairment charge of approximately $1.5 to $1.8 billion, due to them planning to remove content from their streaming platforms.  Disney+ in the United States generally probably doesn’t have a huge amount of content to remove, but Hulu has thousands of titles, many of which aren’t owned by them, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if we see lots of content removed from Hulu in the coming months, ahead of the merger.

There will no doubt be many more questions about how all of this is going to work in the coming months ahead.  We know that Disney has been working on incorporating Hulu’s legacy system into the Disney+ tech since last year. Plus, the Disney Streaming Bundle accounts already use a single login, so that’s something that will hopefully make this smoother, but it’s bound to be a bit bumpy.

There are so many questions that we know nothing about such as:

  • How much is the combined app going to cost?
  • When will it happen?
  • Will Hulu + Live TV continue?
  • Will the Hulu brand continue?
  • Will ESPN+ be a paid add-on?
  • What will happen to other add-ons like HBO within Hulu?
  • What will happen with the Star brand internationally?

Ultimately, the direction for a combined streaming platform for Disney makes sense.  Offering multiple outlets is more expensive, and one platform will offer more content to more people.   It’s already proven to work, but there are lots of hurdles, including Disney paying Comcast a huge cheque for billions of dollars.  But now we know there is a plan to combine Disney’s streaming services under a single offering.

Eventually, a single app for all of Disney’s content is going to make it much easier for both subscribers and Disney, but it will also likely lead to less overall content being available, as Disney is looking to scale back its general entertainment side, but pairing it with Disney+, which has been lacking general entertainment, means the combination will result in us getting regular content constantly.

What do you think of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ coming together under a single app?  Let us know on social media!

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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: Twitter: Facebook:

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