Hulu is getting a sizable upgrade starting next month that will give its Live TV subscribers access to both the Disney+ and ESPN+ streaming services as part of their plan. Beginning on December 21, 2021, Hulu + Live TV subscriptions across both its ad-free and ad-supported tiers will bundle in access to Disney's other streaming services for a small -- but not optional -- upcharge.
Both plans will increase by $5 per month, the company says.
That means the Hulu + Live TV Ad-Supported plan will now be $69.99 per month instead of $64.99 per month, while the Hulu + Live TV No Ads plan will now be $75.99 per month, instead of $70.99 per month.
While generally, streaming subscribers don't appreciate the constant fee hikes they've been seeing, a $5 increase to add on two more major streaming services may be viewed a bit differently. By itself, a Disney+ subscription would have otherwise cost either $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year. Meanwhile, ESPN+ is priced at either $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year. If you subscribed to at least one of those separately from your Hulu + Live TV plan, you'll be saving money.
Before this change, all three services had been separately marketing the "Disney bundle," which combined Disney+ and ESPN+ with Hulu's regular ad-supported or ad-free plan for $13.99 per month or $19.99 per month, respectively. While there was a bundle for Live TV, it now will have a $3/month discount, going from ($78.99/mo to $75.99/mo).
Of course, the current Disney bundle is something consumers can opt into if they want to combine multiple services onto one bill. Hulu + Live TV is being upgraded automatically.
Despite the combination, users will still need different apps. While ESPN+ content was already made available in the Hulu app, users will still need to visit a separate app to access Disney+. Hulu will email users an activation link for adding Disney+, it says, and will include this link in users' account settings for easy access.
The company also notes that existing subscribers will not need to cancel Disney+ or ESPN+, if they were already subscribed. As long as the email addresses on file for both accounts are the same -- and they're paying through Hulu (not a carrier) -- the subscriptions will be connected automatically. For applicable subscribers, Hulu will issue a credit for the retail value of each existing subscription on their first regular billing cycle on or after December 21.
Disney has been working to further capitalize on its Hulu investment since its 2019 acquisition of Fox and subsequent buyback of AT&T's 9.3% stake gave it full operational control of Hulu. In the time since, it's changed the organizational structure, raised prices and combined some content libraries.
Last year, it restructured Hulu to streamline executives' reporting structure to be directed to Disney's Direct to Consumer and International chairman, which was then Kevin Mayer. (Mayer shortly thereafter left to run TikTok in the U.S., then quit amid the Trump-induced "TikTok ban" drama. Rebecca Campbell succeeded him at Disney.)
Disney this year made the decision to fold in Hotstar's South Asian sports and entertainment programing into ESPN+ and Hulu, and shutter the standalone Hotstar U.S. service in 2022. The company also pushed price increases across its service, hiking Hulu + Live by $10 more per month last December, and later bumping up the Hulu + Live service, Disney+, ESPN+ and Disney bundle by $1 more per month in 2021.
Today, Disney+ is larger and growing faster than the Hulu business. As of Disney's fiscal Q4 2021 earnings, Disney+ had 118.1 million subscribers, up 60% year-over-year, while Hulu combined business had 43.8 million subscribers, up 20% year-over-year. Hulu's Live TV business is the smallest tier of Hulu, with just 4 million subscribers. That's down from 4.1 million year-over-year -- an indication that today's consumers may see a declining value in live TV content. (It's still larger than Sling TV, however, which has 2.56 million subscribers.)
This new bundle could give Hulu + Live TV's numbers a boost, if it incentivizes upgrades or new sign-ups, as Disney hopes. Or it may end up being one price hike too many, leading to further cancellations as users drop down to the more affordable Disney bundle, which doesn't have live TV.
Correction: We misstated the existing bundle options. A Live TV + Disney+ bundle was previously available, and now it's being discounted. The story was updated after publication to reflect this.