Hulu is one of the original streaming services, launching back in 2007, with Disney, Time Warner, Comcast, and 20th Century Fox at one point all being co-owners of the streaming service.  Making it the home of next day TV episodes and having both films and series from a variety of studios.

But there has been a dark cloud hanging over the future of Hulu for years. Once Disney+ launched, Hulu was established as the older sibling, with the mature content from ABC and FX, plus everything they’ve had before.  They’ve had some major original shows like “Pam & Tommy”, “Only Murders In The Building”, and “Dopesick.

Former Disney CEO Bob Iger liked having Disney+ and Hulu separated, but the world started to shift as more streaming platforms launched, and when Bob Chapek took control, the international launch of Hulu was cancelled, with Disney+ getting the sixth entertainment brand, Star.  So everything being released by Disney, was going through Disney+ internationally. Drastically increasing the amount of content available, increasing engagement and reducing the churn of subscribers leaving.

But in the US, Hulu’s future still looks cloudy.  Comcast has said it has no plans to sell its 33% share in Hulu until it’s forced to in 2024.  While Disney+ has had some significant upgrades in the past few months with new mature parental controls that have seen TV-MA content added to Disney+.  And announcements of live TV and an ad-supported tier coming later this year, muddling the waters of the differences with Disney+ and Hulu.

Many analysts and shareholders expect Disney+ and Hulu to merge at some point.  While many changes are coming to Disney+, there’s also been plenty of changes at Hulu, hinting that things are ok.

Hulu still offers a variety of additional content through its Live TV platform, in addition to providing content from other smaller streaming services at an additional price, including:

  • Showtime
  • HBO Max
  • Cinemax
  • Starz
  • Epix
  • ESPN+

But, in the past few years, we’ve been seeing the studios spending vast amounts of money buying up one another.  We saw Disney purchase 20th Century Fox, Amazon brought MGM, Discovery purchased Time Warner, and Lionsgate has put Starz up for sale, so it could also be acquired.

Right now, Warner Brothers Discovery is trying to reorganise its own streaming platforms, with HBO Max and Discovery+ set to merge together.  Will the new owners want HBO Max available through Hulu?  Plus, what will the new owners do with the smaller streaming platforms like CNN+ or Cinemax?

Viacom recently rebranded its entire company to Paramount and has already announced plans to merge Showtime in with Paramount+ in some form later this year.  And it’s also expected that Epix will be eventually folded into Amazon Prime Video at some point.


Consumers will only subscribe to so many platforms at once, and these smaller niche streamers are slowly being swallowed up, and original content budgets are being spent on studio’s core platforms instead.

In the coming months or slightly longer, it’s extremely likely that these additional platforms could be merged in with larger streamers, leaving Hulu without these bolt-on platforms to boost how much content is available within Hulu.

These additional bolt-ons aren’t likely to be the only thing leaving Hulu.  It’s already been established that NBC Universal content will be slowly removed from Hulu and won’t be getting access to next-day content from this Fall.  And even Disney+ has been taking shows away, like “Dancing With The Stars”.


Will Warner Brothers Discovery also start to pull more of its content away from Hulu, with brands like HGTV, TLC and Food Network?  Discovery already started pulling some of its on-demand content last year.

Paramount is also likely to do the same with its content from Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and Comedy Central, now that it prioritises Paramount+.

Only last month, it was revealed that Epix‘s deal with Hulu expired, resulting in a massive number of films being removed, but also resulting in less new content flowing onto Hulu moving forward.

However, the good news is that Disney has signed new deals with Sony and Fox for access to their content for years to come.   Disney also merged Hotstar in with Hulu last year, adding thousands of hours worth of Indian content into the streaming service.


Disney has been ramping up the number of new shows and films it’s creating for Hulu, with multiple projects from 20th Century Studios, FX, ABC, Onyx and Searchlight Pictures.  Plus, Hulu still gets new episodes of FX, ABC and Freeform shows almost daily.  So it’s not running out of new content, but the amount it’s getting is reducing.

This is one reason why Disney is sharing lots of sports content from ESPN on Hulu, with lots of live games being broadcast every week. In addition to content from third parties.

But there is no doubt, that Hulu is slowly losing its third party content, as its former partners expand out their own streaming platforms.   And with even Disney seemingly being cautious with where Hulu is going,  there are more dark clouds over Hulu’s future.  Because, right now, Disney is splitting its content output in the US through three streaming services, when everyone else is focusing on one!

Do you think Hulu will continue?

 

 





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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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