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Disney Moves to Fully Add Hulu Content to Disney Plus

The Take

  • Disney announced a one-app experience in the U.S. for Disney+ and Hulu customers that will roll out by the end of 2023.
  • The one-app experience is similar to the international Disney+ that includes Hulu content in a separate tab.
  • Currently, Hulu is owned by Disney and Comcast, although Comcast has the option to sell to Disney.
  • On a recent earnings call, Disney’s CEO said the company is interested in acquiring Hulu in early 2024.

During the Disney earnings call last week, CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney+ will soon integrate Hulu content into the app, creating a one-stop shop for entertainment. The bundled app will only be available in the U.S. as Hulu is unavailable internationally. 

The redesigned Disney+ will be rolled out by the end of 2023, with more details coming soon.

Internationally, Disney uses its subsidiary Star to broadcast Fox, Disney, and Hulu content outside the Disney+ umbrella. 

Disney will likely use a similar experience to differentiate Hulu content in the Disney+ app. Users would click on a tile like the ones available for Marvel, Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars to access the general entertainment content.

What does this mean for Hulu?

So, is Hulu going away? The short answer: No. As Disney CEO Bob Iger said on the company’s earnings call, Hulu will remain available as a standalone service in the U.S.

However, the bigger question is what happens next. Hulu is a U.S.-only streaming service, and Disney has talked about merging Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for years. (The Disney Bundle with all the services reports lower churn overall.)

The company can fully acquire control from NBCUniversal in 2024, an option that seemed farfetched just a few months ago and now seems like a strong possibility with Disney’s latest move.

There is a contractual arrangement with Comcast that allows them to sell their share to Disney in early 2024. While there is no definitive deal yet, everything is on the table. On the earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed that “a combination of the content that is on Disney+ with general entertainment is a very strong combination from a subscriber perspective.”

Hulu and Disney+: General entertainment dream

Could NBCUniversal and Comcast acquire complete control of the company instead? Yes, but it would mean that Disney is relinquishing its biggest streaming vehicle for general entertainment content. 

With Warner Brothers-Discovery launching Max next week and NBCUniversal seeing higher subscriptions for Peacock, Disney is worried about getting left behind. In Q2, Disney+ lost four million subscribers globally, while Hulu and ESPN+ gained subscribers.

This move from Disney suggests the company will keep Hulu and use it to expand content offerings, making Disney+ a one-stop shop to rival Max and Netflix.

“We think that by making Hulu available as a one-app experience will increase engagement,” Iger said. “So where we are headed is for one experience that would have general entertainment and Disney+ content together.” 

In an interview with industry analysts, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that the company is willing to sell its stake in Hulu and give Disney complete control. (Comcast, through NBCUniversal, has a one-third stake in Hulu while Disney with Fox own two-thirds of the streaming service.)

Iger did not speculate on when or how a deal may occur but confirmed initial conversations have begun.

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