Earlier this year, Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed during a quarterly investors call that Hulu content would be available within Disney+ in the United States by the end of the year, as part of a new one-app experience. The idea is that Hulu subscribers will have access to some of Hulu’s content within Disney+, making the Disney Streaming Bundle more compelling and, ultimately, making Disney+ stronger.
The addition of Hulu content into Disney+, from Disney’s other studios, such as 20th Century Studios, FX and ABC, has already been a huge success internationally, following the launch of the sixth general entertainment brand, Star. Churn has been reduced, and engagement has increased since Disney+ outside of the United States has much more choice for viewers, with hit shows like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Family Guy” and “Only Murders In The Building”, plus a huge library of films like “Die Hard”, “Aliens” and “Planet Of The Apes”. The addition of this content has drastically reduced the issues facing Disney+ in the United States, which has become very reliant on Marvel and Star Wars content to keep adults subscribed, and those brands have suffered from the strain.
With consumer spending going down due to the cost of living crisis and with the studios looking to make streaming more profitable, we are seeing lots of consolation, with streaming services merging together, such as Showtime with Paramount+ and Discovery+ with HBO Max. So merging Hulu and Disney+ together, will allow Disney to focus its attention on one specific platform. But much like with the mergers of those other streaming services, they aren’t done instantly and have a period of awkwardness where both platforms are offered simultaneously, to avoid losing subscribers and getting people migrated over properly.
Unfortunately, since the initial reveal that Hulu content would be added to Disney+, we’ve not heard too much about it. One of the main reasons, is that Disney and Comcast are set to finally resolve their ownership battle over Hulu, which Comcast still owns a percentage of. Last month, Disney and Comcast agreed to move forward the timeline from early 2024 to November, for when Disney can use its pull/put clause in the contract they signed in 2019 to buy out Comcast’s stake.
While many had hoped this would be resolved soon, to allow Disney+ and Hulu to merge together sooner, to offer a full alternative to other streaming services like Netflix, Max and Paramount+, it looks like things are going to take a little longer to sort out.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the plan to integrate Hulu into Disney+ has hit many road bumps along the way, especially after Disney started a cost-cutting exercise to save billions of dollars, resulting in thousands of employees being let go from the company. Having less staff has resulted in a growing to-do list for the development teams.
Disney often uses character names for project names, such as Project Yoda (Yield Optimization Delivery Allocation), Project Dory (Disney Optimization and Revenue Yield). Project Yoda is the plan to roll out the ad-supported tier internationally, which begins in Canada and Europe in November, while Project Dory is for the password-sharing crackdown.
While the plan to integrate Hulu content into Disney+, is called “Project Hulk”, and this was originally scheduled to begin in September, but it has been pushed back to the end of the year. And apparently, many of the new key features which were designed to attract new customers to the newly relaunched Disney/Hulu bundle have now been pushed back to March 2024. Some of the new features included adding personalisation of Hulu programming based on Disney+ subscriber’s past viewing habits.
The hope was that pushing these new features would help prompt more people to sign up for the bundle, to help generate millions of dollars in additional revenue.
Disney is still planning on adding a Hulu tile into Disney+ in the United States by the end of the year, it will not include all of the content currently available within Hulu. Bob Iger has previously said that not everything would be available within Disney+. This is due to licensing issues, as Disney is still having to negotiate agreements for shows and movies. Hulu has next-day content for many of the shows from FOX, and WWE, in addition to other networks. While Hulu does offer premium add-ons such as Max and Starz, this content also wouldn’t be available within Disney+.
Internationally, Disney+ does offer some licensed content, but it can vary between countries, so it’s likely the new Hulu hub within Disney+ will just focus on Disney’s own content from brands like FX, Onyx Collective, 20th Century Studios, Touchstone and ABC.
Disney is raising the price of its ad-free tiers for its streaming services this month, to try to encourage more customers to its duo ad-supported bundle of Hulu and Disney+ for $9.99. The price rise was originally going to be implemented at the end of the year, but was brought forward. Internationally, with the launch of the ad-supported tier in November, Disney+ will offer three different tiers, Standard, Standard with Ads and Premium, as a way of increasing revenue from subscribers.
The Disney technical teams have been working on introducing Hulu into Disney+ for years. It’s one reason why Star was added to Disney+ around the world, instead of launching Hulu, since operating one streaming service is most cost-effective, with server costs, advertising, etc. Plus, launching Hulu internationally, would have increased the value of Hulu, which would have directly impacted how much Disney would have to pay Comcast, which apparently infuriated Comcast.
While it still looks like some Hulu content will still become available within Disney+ in the United States later this year, it does sound like many of the major new features have been pushed back. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney simply rebranded the Star hub on Disney+ internationally to Hulu and launched that same hub on Disney+ in the United States, just to get the benefits as soon as they can, worrying about giving Disney+ all the new features it needs at a later date.
Disney+ is in need of many new features, to allow it to compete with the other streaming services, and there haven’t been many changes to Disney+ since it launched. Disney+ recently removed its Groupwatch feature and is still lacking many core features.
It’s disappointing to hear that the Hulu and Disney+ integration isn’t going as smoothly as we’d have hoped. If Disney is planning on launching the new Hulu hub within Disney+ by the end of the year, it’s going to have to start advertising it soon and getting Disney+ users aware of the changes. When Disney+ launched the Star Hub internationally, it had a huge advertising campaign based around the idea of Disney+ offers more than you’d expect and that there was something for everyone. The American market is very different from other regions like Europe and Asia, so they might need much more convincing that their kids will be safe with the parental controls and how to set them up correctly.
Hopefully, we find out some more information on this soon.
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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.