Disney Unveils Plan to Combine Disney+ and Hulu into Single App for Subscribers

Disney is on the verge of finalizing a deal to become the complete owner of Hulu, and CEO Bob Iger has just announced a beta test of an app that will merge Disney+ and Hulu into a seamless experience for subscribers of both services. While the deal with Comcast to buy out NBCUniversal’s 33% stake in Hulu is still pending, Disney has disclosed its willingness to pay at least $8.61 billion to secure the Hulu stake. However, the final price tag may vary, depending on the market value assessment conducted by the respective bankers of both parties.

Unifying Disney+ and Hulu: A Game-Changing Move

During the earnings call for Disney’s September quarter, Bob Iger confirmed that the company is progressing toward offering a more integrated app experience to domestic audiences. This move aims to provide comprehensive general entertainment content to bundle subscribers via Disney+. The beta version of the Disney+/Hulu app is set to launch in December, exclusively for subscribers of the two-service bundle. Iger emphasized that this timeline will allow parents to set up parental controls for the combined platform. Furthermore, Disney+ customers will gain access to adult-oriented Hulu content, marking a significant expansion of the streaming service’s content offerings. The official launch of the combined Disney+/Hulu app is scheduled for spring 2024, with an expected release date around late March.

Anticipated Benefits and Impact

Disney is poised to reap several advantages from integrating Disney+ and Hulu into a single app. CEO Bob Iger highlighted the following key benefits:

  1. Increased Engagement: By offering a broader range of content through the unified platform, Disney expects to boost user engagement, enticing subscribers to explore an even wider array of entertainment options.
  2. Greater Ad Revenue: With a more extensive audience accessing content on a single app, Disney foresees an uptick in advertising revenue. Advertisers will have access to a larger pool of viewers, enhancing the value of ad placements.
  3. Reduced Customer-Acquisition Costs: Streamlining the customer experience through one app will likely reduce the costs associated with acquiring and retaining subscribers. A more straightforward user experience can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  4. Lower Churn: Providing a more comprehensive entertainment package can reduce subscriber churn. With a diverse content catalogue, customers are less likely to cancel their subscriptions.

A Shift in Disney’s Streaming Strategy

This recent announcement follows Disney’s earlier statement that it was preparing a “one-app experience” in the U.S. that would seamlessly incorporate Hulu content into Disney+. The initial plan was to launch this combined offering by the end of 2023, exclusively for customers who subscribe to both streaming services.

Disney offers a discounted bundle comprising Disney+ and Hulu with ads for $9.99 per month and an ad-free version for $19.99 per month. However, users must access each service through separate apps, a limitation that will be eliminated with the upcoming integration.

Global Expansion Potential

The merging of Disney+ and Hulu into a single app also paves the way for Disney to introduce the Hulu brand to global audiences. Currently, the Disney-operated Hulu service is only available in the United States, with licensing arrangements in place for Japan. Speculation on Wall Street suggests that Disney has refrained from launching Hulu globally to prevent increasing the streaming service’s value, as it would result in higher costs for buying out Comcast’s stake. Nonetheless, Disney has yet to officially announce plans to make Hulu a global brand, leaving room for speculation on the streaming service’s future beyond U.S. borders.

Disney’s Streaming Growth

In the most recent quarter, Disney reported substantial growth in its streaming business. Disney+ gained nearly 4 million subscribers overall, reaching 150.2 million. Core Disney+ subscriptions, excluding Disney+ Hotstar, increased by 6.9 million, reaching 112.6 million subscribers. This indicates the continued popularity of Disney’s streaming services among consumers.

Despite the impressive growth, Disney’s streaming business reported a loss of $387 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023. Nevertheless, this figure represents a significant improvement compared to the $1.4 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2022. Bob Iger expressed optimism regarding the profitability of Disney’s streaming business, projecting that it is on track to reach profitability by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024.

As the beta version of the app prepares to launch in December, Disney is on the brink of reshaping the streaming landscape and potentially expanding the reach of the Hulu brand beyond the United States. The company’s continued growth in its streaming business reinforces its position as a significant player in the global entertainment industry.