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Disney to marry Hulu shows, movies with Disney Plus content

On a conference call Wednesday, Disney's CEO said the move was intended to help retain subscribers and make content more attractive to advertisers.

On a conference call Wednesday, Disney's CEO said the move was intended to help retain subscribers and make content more attractive to advertisers.

The home screen of Disney's general entertainment streaming service Hulu.
The home screen of Disney’s general entertainment streaming service Hulu. (Graphic by The Desk)

The Walt Disney Company is developing a version of its Disney Plus app that will offer general entertainment content from Hulu, officials confirmed on Wednesday.

The announcement was made shortly after Disney revealed its financial earnings for the company’s second quarter of the year, which revealed relatively flat growth at its various streaming properties, including a drop of 100,000 subscribers to a version of Hulu that offers live television channels.

During a conference call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger said the company was preparing to launch a “super app” that would marry television shows and movies from Disney Plus and Hulu into a single experience. The app is expected to replace a bundle that offers access to both Hulu and Disney Plus at a discount compared to what both services would cost on their own.

In justifying the new app, Iger said it would make it easier for streamers to watch content from both services, because they would not have to leave one app to watch content from the other. It is also expected to make Hulu’s shows and movies more attractive to advertisers, who are already buying commercial inventory within Disney Plus.

“This is a logical progression of our [streaming] offerings that will provide greater opportunities for advertisers while giving subscribers access to more robust and streamlined content, resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience,” Iger said, who affirmed that the company will continue to make standalone versions of Hulu and Disney Plus available to streamers who don’t want both services.

Disney said the new super app will launch by the end of 2023, but didn’t provide information on how much the service will cost. Currently, a subscription to Hulu costs $8 a month with commercials or $15 a month for uninterrupted streaming (customers can add Disney Plus for an extra $2 a month). Likewise, the ad-supported version of Disney Plus costs $8 a month, while the commercial-free version is $11 a month.

The move to marry Disney Plus and Hulu content comes as a 2024 deadline looms that could see Disney purchase Comcast’s 30 percent stake in the service. The valuation of that stake is largely dependent on the health of Hulu as a service, including its subscriber count and average revenue per user.

Hulu launched in 2007 as a joint venture between Disney, 21st Century Fox (now Fox Corporation) and Comcast’s NBC Universal, with each holding an equal 30 percent stake in the general entertainment service (various third parties held the remaining 10 percent over the years). Disney became the majority owner of Hulu after purchasing media assets from Fox Corporation in 2019 and buying out AT&T’s 10 percent stake in the service later that year.

The service offers TV shows and movies from Disney’s library, including comedies and dramas from FX and documentaries from National Geographic, as well as content from third parties like Fox, A+E Networks, the BBC and other studios.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).