Last week, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced during an earnings call that Disney plans to combine Disney+ and Hulu into a single service, set to launch before the end of the year. Similar to HBO Max (unfortunately), Disney also plans to remove some content from Disney+ and Hulu in the name of saving money. Finally, the ad-free version of Disney+ is set to see a price hike, though by how much is unknown.
Summing up the news:
- Hulu will still be available as a stand-alone service for those that don’t want Disney+. Thus, those that get Hulu with Spotify or as part of some mobile plan/Black Friday deal should see business as usual. You’ll need to be a subscriber to both Hulu and Disney+ to use the new Disney+-with-Hulu service.
- ESPN+ isn’t a part of the combined service; it’ll still be a stand-alone app.
- No new app is needed; Disney plans to just update the current Disney+ app.
As a reminder (per the mention of a price hike), the current Disney+ bundles with Hulu cost:
- Disney+ and Hulu (both with ads): $10/mo.
- The Disney Bundle (Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+): $13/mo. (with ads); $20/mo. (without ads)
A US version of Disney+-with-Star?
For several years, Disney’s advertised a discounted bundle, the “Disney Bundle,” featuring Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. (There’s even a CGI ad campaign for this, set in “Bundletown.”) They’ve also started advertising Hulu and Disney+ as its own bundle, for those that don’t want ESPN+. That said, the combination of Disney+ and Hulu will make Disney+ in the United States similar to non-US versions. The non-American versions of Disney+ carry the “Star” category alongside the ones for Disney, Pixar, Marvel, etc. Since Hulu only exists within the US, Star is basically the Disney-owned Hulu material. Thus, those outside the US can use Disney+ to watch “What We Do in the Shadows,” “Family Guy,” and other adult content alongside “The Mandalorian” and “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.”
Disney+ in the US already carries some R-rated adult content, so that ship’s sailed; it added the “Deadpool” movies and Netflix Marvel shows (rated TV-MA) awhile ago. As Disney+ already has parental controls, adding Hulu will simply be a matter of advertising said controls more to parents, as Disney did when the Star category launched (using Stewie Griffin from “Family Guy”).
As for what Disney+-with-Hulu will look like, I assume it’ll resemble the non-US Disney+ service, as shown in the image above. Just add a Hulu tile next to the Disney, Pixar, “Star Wars,” etc. tiles; everything else stays the same. For those that pay for both services, it should make watching content from Hulu and Disney+ more convenient.
I have the Disney+ bundle, which for me is a better buy than Disney+ or Hulu by themselves. (I also get out-of-market hockey coverage via ESPN+.) Disney+ has a strong animation library, as well as the Marvel and “Star Wars” franchises, but not as much general live-action adult content. Meanwhile, Hulu carries plenty of live-action, adult-oriented content, but has a lackluster non-adult animation library. The two services together also feel more of a “catch-all” level like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
That said, I’m a bit wary of seeing material removed from Disney+ and Hulu. I hope it doesn’t resemble HBO Max’s level of content purging, or (as some fear) even see a revival of the old “Disney Vault.”
The future of Hulu?
Again, this still calls into question whether or not Disney will fully buy out Hulu next year, as presumably planned. As I wrote before, I can think of arguments in favor of Disney going either way. If Disney opts to sell Hulu, it’d be easy to just swap out the Hulu tile in Disney+ with the Star tile (or whatever they’d call it here), and ditch the non-Disney-owned content.
Speaking of which, I assume the non-Disney-owned material on Hulu will still be available under the upcoming combined Disney+ app. That said, seeing shows heavily tied to Warner Bros., like the “Animaniacs” reboot or Cartoon Network material, streaming directly under a service branded “Disney+” (versus Hulu) might seem odd.
Image of Hulu and Disney+ logos. (Disney)