Bob Chapek Would Like Disney+ & Hulu To Merge; What Could It Look Like?
Hulu has come a long way since its launch in 2007. Once co-owned by multiple companies, including Comcast, 20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company, the streamer has grown to become one of the most popular services in the United States.
Since 2019, the site has been owned by Comcast and The Walt Disney Company, the latter holding a 67% majority stake and the former only holding a 33% minority stake. Upon Disney’s takeover of 20th Century Fox, which gave them the majority share, they agreed not to buy out Comcast until 2024.
Speaking to Goldman Sachs Communacopia & Tech Conference, Disney CEO Bob Chapek confirmed that he “would love to” execute the buyout sooner, but Comcast is quietly waiting until 2024 due to their own financial interests. Until then, Comcast is acting as a silent partner while also running its wholly-owned service – Peacock.
In the past, Chapek has mentioned that he would one day like to merge Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu into one glorified service, but that cannot be done until Comcast is out.
In its 2019 third-quarter earnings report, Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh stated that they were “happy to be along for that ride” and that “it’ll be fine if we stay until the end because I expect the value to keep increasing.” Since the minimum Disney can offer is $27. 5 billion, it’s no wonder why they’re happy to stay as long as they can.
Once bought out, whether sooner or later, Disney will be able to merge Disney+ and Hulu together. However, some have voiced concerns about the idea because it would mean that family-friendly Disney content would have to sit side-by-side with general entertainment offerings such as The Handmaid’s Tale. However, as Chapek noted, they have had no blowback from adding general offerings onto Disney+ in territories outside of the US.
As many know, in most countries, Disney+ has an extra hub called STAR, which is home to Disney’s subsidiary libraries, including ABC, 20th Century, Touchstone Pictures and all licensed content from third parties. For example, in the UK and Ireland, you can easily find classics such as Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, but you can also swing over to watch Alien, American Horror Story or The Walking Dead.
When Star launched on February 23rd, 2021, it was met with some criticism, mostly from major Disney fanatics and concerned parents, but the inclusion of a new PIN system that blocks any unwanted eyes from certain accounts helped curb these complaints.
It was a smart choice to introduce general entertainment because one of the biggest complaints from consumers was that Disney+ had very little to offer adults, and nearly two years since Star’s launch, Disney+ has only become better and better, with a lot more content added weekly when compared to the United States often measly additions.
A different decision was made in Latin America, where Disney decided to keep Disney+ as is while introducing Star as a completely separate service. At the time of writing, Star+ (and Asia’s Disney+ Hotstar) is the closest we have to what a blended Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu service could look like. It offers similar offerings to Hulu and the Disney+ Star hub while hosting sports via an ESPN section.
If Disney+ and Hulu were to merge, then do not be shocked if Star+ is eventually merged with Disney+ too. The decision to launch Star+ instead of including a Star hub on Disney+, like in the rest of the world, was met with a lot of negative feedback from Latin American consumers.
If/when Disney+ merges with Hulu, it’s doubtful they would create another completely different streaming service with a new name due to Disney’s name recognition. So, our best guess is that Disney+ would open a new PIN-protected hub with most of Hulu’s offerings added in, and whether sports would be carried over is another question, too, because we could potentially see some of it going over to ESPN+. Assuming that Disney decides to keep it separate from the rest.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Disney has closed one service in favour of another. On November 30th, 2021, we saw the US version of Hotstar close, and most of its content shipped over to Hulu and its sports to ESPN+.
As we come nearer and nearer to 2023, we may start to see signs and rumours of Hulu’s future. But what do you think? Should Disney merge their US-based services together? Or should Hulu stay as it is? Let us know!