Disney+ and Hulu content will soon be combined into a single app in the US. During Disney's earnings call held early Thursday, CEO Bob Iger confirmed that the company will release a new, merged app by the end of the calendar year, with further details in the coming months. For now, the option will be available to those who are subscribed to both services. Hulu content is already bundled into the Disney+ app in select countries like India where it's called Disney+ Hotstar, and packages even FX and Star content into the mix. HBO content was also a key attraction, until it was removed in late March.
“While we continue to offer Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ as standalone options, this is a logical progression of our DTC offerings that will provide greater opportunities for advertisers, while giving bundle subscribers access to more robust and streamlined content, resulting in greater audience engagement and ultimately leading to a more unified streaming experience,” Iger said during the earnings call (via The Hollywood Reporter). The news comes amidst Disney's efforts to buy Comcast's stake in Hulu by 2024, with Iger claiming that he sees some business potential in retaining general third-party content — like Hulu — in tandem with Disney's catalogue. Disney owns two-thirds of Hulu and has an agreement with Comcast that might result in the former owning the entirety of the stake soon.
Back in April, Warner Bros. Discovery did something similar — merging HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single revamped app called ‘Max.' It is slated to launch on May 23 and comes in multiple tiers.
Iger also confirmed that Disney+'s ad-free tier will undergo a price hike, later this year, adding that it would "better reflect the value of our content offerings.” The plan currently costs $10.99 per month (about Rs. 902), going up from $7.99 (about Rs. 655) in December when the company launched its ad-supported plan.
Disney+ also lost 4 million subscribers for the second consecutive quarter, following a decline in late 2022. On a positive note, the streamer also managed to reduce its losses by over $400 million (about Rs. 3,282 crore), down 26 percent year-over-year. At the end of the first quarter, Disney+ had 157.8 million subscribers, compared to the 161.8 million count from December. As per Variety, the drop was driven by a ‘4.6 million sequential decline at Disney+ Hotstar,' which lost streaming rights for the annual Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament last year to Viacom18. On March 31, it also lost the rights to stream all HBO content, including Game of Thrones, The Last of Us, and the ongoing Succession. Viacom18 picked that up too, with the content soon to be available on JioCinema.
While it's unclear as to exactly what will be affected for now, Disney also confirmed that it will remove ‘certain content' from its streaming platforms. “[Disney is] in the process of reviewing the content on our DTC services to align with the strategic changes in our approach to content curation, ” Christine McCarthy, CFO, said during the call (via Variety). Going forward, the company intends to produce lower volumes of content, as a means to streamline its operations and offerings.
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