There’s some good news and bad news from Disney Plus. The good news is that the streaming service should be getting a bunch of new content later this year, importing it from Disney-owned Hulu. The bad news is that this means prices will be increasing (again) as a result, as one of the best streaming services gets more expensive.
This news comes straight from Disney CEO Bob Iger during Disney’s latest earnings call (via Variety). Iger said that this new “one-app experience” will launch by the end of 2023, and will be available to Hulu and Disney Plus subscribers. He also clarified that both services, alongside ESPN Plus, will still be available as standalone options.
From the sounds of things, this is essentially an evolution of the existing Disney Bundle, which offers Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus in a single package — with prices ranging from $10 to $20 a month.
Iger himself called it a “logical progression of our offerings” noting that it will offer “more robust and streamlined content, resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience." He also said that there would be greater opportunities for advertisers.
Now for the bad news: the price increase. Disney already increased the price of Disney Plus when the ad-supported tier launched last December, and now that’s going to happen again.
Iger didn’t say how much more people would be expected to pay. The ad-free tier will be going up by an unspecified amount, with the goal being to “widen the delta” between the ad-free and ad-supported tiers. Iger implied that the ad-free tier was the only one being affected.
A date for this increase, or the launch of the new Hulu-integrated service, hasn’t been announced.
What does this mean for the future of Hulu?
The obvious question to this new Hulu-ified Disney Plus is what will happen to that particular streaming service. Adding Hulu content to Disney Plus seemed like an inevitability for some, especially since Disney Plus’ Star channel is the home to a large catalog of Hulu content internationally.
While Disney controls Hulu, Comcast still owns a 33% stake in the service, though that may not be the case for much longer. Iger claims that Disney hasn’t decided what to do with Hulu in the long term, and is evaluating all its options. From January 2024 those options expand, and Disney could force Comcast to sell its stake. Comcast can also force that sale, should it wish.
According to Variety, the terms of Disney's deal with Comcast see the service valued at at least $27.5 billion. That means Comcast’s third will be worth at least $9.2 billion. That’s the equivalent of 2.3 Lucasfilms or one-third of Fox.
Whatever happens, it seems the writing may be on the wall for Hulu. While Iger notes that the streaming landscape is “very, very tricky right now," he also admitted that the company is aiming for “one experience, with general entertainment content on Disney Plus."
However, for the time being, Hulu will be staying where it is as a standalone service. We just don’t know how long that will last.