Subscribers who pay for Disney Plus and Hulu access should be happy to hear the two platforms will be available in a single app next month. However, the upcoming app will be a beta test ahead of a wider rollout planned for the first quarter of 2024.
Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed the move during the company’s earnings call for the September quarter. Considering Disney recently confirmed its plans to buy Comcast out and become the sole owner of Hulu, merging the two services into a single streaming app is hardly a surprise.
“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 Plus,” Iger said during the call, per Variety.
The app should be available once Disney’s Hulu purchase is complete. The company will pay at least $8.61 billion to Comcast for its 33% stake in Hulu. The figure comes from a Disney announcement earlier this month, but it could be higher. It all depends on the market value of Hulu, which is to be determined by the bankers of the two parties.
Once the deal is finalized, the beta version of the Disney Plus/Hulu app should be available to subscribers in December. It’s unclear what the app will be called. But from Iger’s comments, it seems it’ll be a Disney Plus version that will feature Hulu content.
The CEO said that Disney expects Hulu on Disney Plus to result in increased engagement and ad revenue. Moreover, Iger said the merger will reduce customer acquisition costs and lower churn.
The CEO expects Disney’s streaming business to be profitable again by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024. For the September 2023 quarter, which is the fourth fiscal quarter of 2023, Disney reported a net gain of 4 million Disney Plus subscribers. This helped the service reach more than 150 million users.
However, Disney still reported a $384 million operating loss for its streaming services during the period. The figure concerns Disney’s entire streaming business. That’s a significant improvement over the $1.4 billion loss for the September 2022 quarter.
The final version of the Disney Plus/Hulu app should be available more broadly in the spring next year, around late March. Iger said earlier this year that Disney was working on a one-app experience in the US. At the time, Iger offered a late 2023 launch for the combined service. Disney is still on track to deliver, albeit it’ll be a beta version of the app coming out first.
It’s unclear whether Disney also plans to launch the Hulu brand internationally. Variety points out that the standing theory on Wall Street is that Disney avoided bringing the Hulu brand to other countries so far to prevent paying Comcast more money. The value of the Hulu brand might have increased following a global rollout of the service.
The recent announcement that Marvel’s Echo TV show will be available to binge on Disney Plus and Hulu in early January makes a lot of sense, considering Disney’s plans for Hulu.
Separately, I’d also point out that Disney’s announced crackdown on Disney Plus password-sharing would likely apply to Hulu as well. After all, combining Disney Plus and Hulu into the same app would let Disney track account access for both services. This part is just speculation for now. Disney’s password-sharing crackdown has started in Canada for the time being.