In a major move from Disney, the company announced on Wednesday that US customers will get a new app that combines Disney+ and Hulu content.
The company also announced that it will increase the price of the Disney+ ad-free tier later this year.
During Disney’s quarterly earnings call, CEO Bob Iger revealed that the new streaming option will launch in late 2023. However, the company also plans to keep Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ as standalone platforms.
The offer is initially available to subscribers with the Disney bundle (Disney+ and Hulu). So instead of having to switch back and forth between each service, users have a “one app experience,” Iger said during the call.
“About the integrated app experience we announced today, which is for consumers who have provisionally subscribed to both services,” he said. “So in other words, it’s taking what we call the ‘double bundle’ and putting it together into one experience, which is clearly good for the consumer… It’s a bigger platform, more content in fact than before.”
The news comes after Disney+ lost 4 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2023. Hulu gained 200,000 subscribers.
“While we continue to offer Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ as standalone options, this is a logical continuation of our [direct-to-consumer] offerings that give advertisers more opportunities and give subscribers access to more robust and streamlined content, resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience,” Iger added.
Many of us saw this announcement coming since former Disney CEO Bob Chapek hinted at the plans in September 2022.
“Currently, if you want to go from Hulu to ESPN+ to Disney+, you have to move from one app to another. In the future, we may have less friction,” Chapek told Variety in an interview last year.
This also seems to support reports that Disney plans to buy Comcast’s stake in Hulu by 2024. Currently Comcast owns 33% and Disney 66%.
Iger noted on the phone call that preliminary talks have begun with Comcast, but a decision on whether or not Comcast will sell the stake to Disney is still up in the air.
“How that ultimately unfolds is in the hands of Comcast to some extent and really in the hands of any conversation or negotiation that we have with them,” Iger said.
The integration follows other moves by competitors, such as the combination of Paramount+ with Showtime, and Warner Bros. Discovery announcing its new Max streaming service, which merges HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single platform.
Subscribers in certain countries outside the US already have most of the Hulu content bundled with Disney+.
“Outside of the United States, we’ve done that with Star, which doesn’t have all of Hulu’s programming, but it has a significant amount, and it works pretty well,” Iger added.
When the streamer launched its ad-supported plan in December, the cost of its premium tier rose to $10.99/month from $7.99. Disney+ is getting another price increase for its ad-free subscription. Soon subscribers will have to pay even more to get ad-free content.
“The price changes we have already implemented [have] proved successful, and we plan to set a higher price for our ad-free tier later this year to better reflect the value of our content offerings,” said Iger. “Looking to the future, we will continue to optimize our pricing model to reward loyalty and reduce churn to increase subscriber revenue for the premium ad-free tier and drive subscriber growth…”