Disney, which is in the home stretch of swinging the deal to become the full owner of Hulu, will launch a beta test of an app next month that combines Disney+ and Hulu into a single experience for subscribers of both services, CEO Bob Iger said.
Disney still needs to close its deal with Comcast to buy out NBCUniversal’s 33% stake in Hulu. In a filing last week, Disney said it would pay at least $8.61 billion to Comcast for the Hulu stake, with the final price tag — which could be much higher — to be based on an assessment of Hulu’s market value by each parties’ bankers.
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“We remain on track to roll out a more unified one-app experience domestically, making extensive general entertainment content available to bundle subscribers via Disney+,” Iger said on the Mouse House’s earnings call for the September quarter.
A beta version of the Disney+/Hulu app will launch in December for subscribers of the two-service bundle — giving parents time to set up parental controls, according to Iger, who explained that Disney+ customers will be able to access adult-oriented Hulu content — ahead of the official launch in spring 2024 (around late March). The company expects Hulu on Disney+ to result in increased engagement, greater ad revenue, reduce customer-acquisition costs and lower churn, Iger said.
Iger’s comments come after he announced earlier this year that the media conglomerate was prepping a “one-app experience” in the U.S. that incorporates Hulu content into Disney+. At the time, he said, the new combined offering would launch by the end of 2023, available to customers who subscribe to both streaming services.
Disney offers the price-discounted bundle of Disney+ and Hulu with ads for $9.99 per month and $19.99 per month without ads, but currently customers must use separate apps to stream each one.
The combination of Disney+ and Hulu into one app also will potentially pave the way for Disney to launch the Hulu brand globally. The Disney-operated Hulu service is available only in the U.S.; in Japan, the brand is licensed to Nippon TV. The standing theory on Wall Street is that Disney, even after securing operational control over Hulu, has avoided launching it outside the U.S. in order to not increase Hulu’s value (which would mean paying more to buy out Comcast’s stake).
To date, however, Disney has not announced any plans to make Hulu a global brand.
For the most recent quarter, the company’s fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023, Disney+ gained a net of nearly 4 million overall to reach 150.2 million. Core Disney+ subscriptions (excluding Disney+ Hotstar) increased by 6.9 million, to 112.6 million subs. Overall Disney’s streaming business lost $387 million in its Q4, a year-over-year improvement of 74% from a loss of $1.4 billion in the company’s Q4 2022. Iger said Disney’s streaming business is on track to reach profitability by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2024.
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