One of the things people don’t realise about Disney, is just how much content they create.  Unlike Netflix, where everything is released through a single platform, Disney has many more outlets to release content on, especially in the United States, due to a selection of legacy linear channels and multiple streaming platforms.

Slowly, Disney has begun reducing the amount of linear channels and streaming services it operates.  Internationally, things are much simpler since Disney generally only operates a single streaming service, Disney+, and it has been drastically reducing the number of linear channels it operates.  So ultimately, almost everything they create is released on Disney+.  Later this summer in Latin America, Disney+ and Star+ will be merging together.  

And only last month, Disney made a huge shift following the official launch of Hulu On Disney+, bringing most of Hulu’s content onto Disney+, blurring the lines between the two streaming platforms and making it easier in the future to merge the two together potentially.  In 2025, a new direct-to-consumer version of ESPN is launching, which will offer everything ESPN currently shows on linear in a more expanding streaming service, which will also be incorporated directly into Disney+, like Hulu On Disney+.

Because Disney has so many linear channels and streaming platforms, it does mean that Disney’s content is being spread out, though the launch of Hulu On Disney+ is the first time we’ve seen Disney bringing all of its entertainment together.

But at the moment, Disney is still splitting up its original programming between different channels and streaming services and recently, Craig Erwich, who is the president of Disney Television Group, spoke with Vulture, where he spoke about how they make the decision as to what goes where and why.

So a great Hulu Original is something that both reflects and pierces popular culture, and is addictive. These are shows that you can’t stop watching or talking about, and they’re of the highest quality, and they generate conversation. And that will continue to be both the brand filter and the goal for Hulu Originals. It may take on different forms, but we’re looking to just continue to do better and better for ourselves and for our audience.

I think that when you talk about the difference between a Hulu show and an ABC show, don’t forget Hulu viewers watch both. It really just depends on their mood.  And what Dana [Walden]  has articulated so clearly is that each of our programming brands is responsible for servicing a different need for the direct-to-consumer viewer or audience. So there are people who want to watch their Kardashians and then they want to watch Handmaid’s Tale, and then they want to dive into a long-running, case-driven procedural. ABC has a deep expertise in bringing those procedurals to market, shows like Will Trent9-1-1, and Grey’s — and those shows are on Hulu three hours later. So for the Hulu customer, it’s a small difference between what’s a Hulu Original and an ABC show. They’re just watching shows.

Craig went on to explain how they make these choices about what goes where, even during the pitching process:

The power and the strength of the Disney company is that when you think about all of our platforms, even the ones that I’m not involved in, there is a place for every story. Yes, there are hit shows that have broad appeal, whether it’s Abbott Elementary or Only Murders in the Buildingthat can work on a variety of platforms. That’s why they’re hits. But when we hear [pitches for] these shows, we really just think about what’s the best way to bring them to market. The Hulu Originals have probably more of a pay television sensibility. They tend to be more highly serialized, which is not ideal for network television. They might be covering subject matter or have content that’s not suitable for a broadcast platform. So these things tend to sort themselves out.

I also think you have to look at what the shows are trying to accomplish for each platform. At ABC, we need shows that can generate 18 to 20 episodes a year of television, and certain ideas lend themselves to that: case-driven shows, cops, doctors, lawyers, so on and so forth. With Hulu originals, the primary purpose of them is to drive both conversation and engagement, so there, an eight-to-10 episode order might be right. So each show has to accomplish something different for each platform.

An ABC show, the idea of it is, these are shows that are on in people’s living rooms when they’re coming home after work. These channels are part of their family and part of their community, and there’s a certain tonality for broadcast television that people turn on broadcast TV for, and that might be different than Hulu. Again, that doesn’t mean that the audience can’t and won’t enjoy both or the same person won’t and can’t enjoy both.

With Disney going on a major cost-cutting exercise to reduce how much money it spends, it has been drastically reducing how much original content it creates.  The studios now focus on quality over quantity, which has also resulted in Disney releasing some of its original streaming programming on linear channels.  This helps reduce the amount of money needed to create content to fill that timeslot, plus it also provides additional revenue from advertising and increases the reach of the streaming originals.

ABC has shown a number of Hulu and Disney+ Originals in the past year, including “Ms Marvel” and “Only Murders In The Building”, which Craig explained the decision:

Well, The Mandalorian was an excellent programming opportunity for the ABC audience because there were people who hadn’t seen it, and it also provided, I think, a good promotional window. We have been learning as we’ve gone along, and although you reference Only Murders in the Building as a Hulu show, it’s spiritually got a lot in common with an ABC show, which is one of the things that I think was key to the success of it. It’s broad in its appeal, it’s deeply emotional, it’s highly funny, and it’s got big, fun television stars at the center of it. So it has a lot of the brand values that an ABC show has.

In the case of Only Murders, we realized that as popular and as widely-viewed and  lauded as the show was, there were still people who had not seen it. So we really put a lot of thought into how we were going to roll out the show. We really approached it as if it was a “new show,” and we spent months figuring out what’s the right strategy: What’s the right time of year to do it, how do we market it, how do we format it so we give the viewers the best experience.

And Craig also revealed that more programming from Disney+ and Hulu will likely be heading to ABC in the future, which continues to blur the line between what is an original and what isn’t.

Ultimately, as we move more towards fewer linear channels and a combined streaming service with Disney+ offering everything, we will likely see the idea of a Disney+ Original or Hulu Original become much less important.  Without no doubt, Disney will be more focused on highlighting the content’s core brands, like Marvel, Star Wars, Searchlight Pictures or Pixar etc.

Do you agree with Craig’s comments?  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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